Empowering at-risk students, Part I

Not every student that walks through your doors has all the tools that they need to be successful. In fact, many of them probably don’t. It’s no surprise to you, sure. But is there more you could be doing to move them from the drop out danger zone to graduation success?

This year, we’ve been out and about talking with some institutions about exactly that (In Ohio? Catch us at the OMACCS Faculty and Career Services Workshop and Annual Meeting – October 27, 2017). Facilitated by Cyanna® Curriculum Manager, David Grimes, school staff and faculty have been discussing ways to identify risk factors as well as strategies to help course-correct students who are at-risk.

We’ve organized this information in three parts to share with you.

Part I – GO: Transitioning into college
Early intervention is key. In this part, we’ll explore what you can do right off the bat.

Part II – KNOW: Comprehending content
Understanding course material is (obviously) key to students graduating. What can you put in place to make sure students are getting it?

Part III – FLOW: Getting into the groove
Although knowing the actual facts and figures is important, it’s also just as vital for students to manage their learning. Part III talks techniques that help students maximize organization and understanding.

Let’s get started with Part I.

Part I – GO: Transitioning into college
The sooner you and your team can identify at-risk students, the sooner you can help them. Identify points in your on-boarding process, including campus tours and orientation, where you can offer students opportunities to ask for help. And, make sure the staff or faculty running these programs knows the signs of a student who may need extra help.

Things to be on the lookout for:

  • Learning disability
  • Emotional distress
  • Outside work commitment
  • Parenthood or Single-parent
  • Transportation issues
  • Non-supportive home environment or peer group
  • Lack of clear goals
  • Financial issues
  • 1st generation college student

If a student shows any of the above, it doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is at-risk. It’s just a sign for you to look a bit deeper, and make sure the student feels comfortable and knows what to do to succeed in your program.

Here are a few strategies that have worked at other institutions to empower students.

At orientation:

  • Welcome packet – include messages from and photos of leaders and graduates
  • Engaging presentations and activities
  • Department breakout sessions
  • Meet leadership team
  • Well-planned tours

Ongoing communication:

  • What’s up? Bulletin Board – showcase important dates gathered from classes like upcoming exams, last day of classes, and lab days
  • Student Spotlights – highlight student achievement, complete with the student’s photo
  • Simple encouragement and recognition – “Looking forward to seeing you in class!” “How are things?” “Feel ok about what you need for class?”

On an individual basis:

  • Scholarship information
  • Career information
  • Bus passes
  • Counseling services
  • Coaches and mentors
  • Peer buddy system

To turn ideas and strategies into an action plan, follow these steps:

  • Identify risk factors common at your school
  • Determine the strategy you’ll use to address them
  • Communicate the plan and get buy in from all faculty and staff
  • Reinforce the role everyone plays in retention efforts – it’s an ongoing group effort
  • Discuss and assess results, and evolve as necessary

Next week, we’ll take a look at Part II – KNOW: Comprehending content.

Let us show you what Cyanna® can do for you.