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Northwestern State increases its freshman retention rate
Feb 17, 2012 | 897 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A stronger emphasis on student advisement and making students aware of campus services helped Northwestern State University improve its freshman retention rate this spring.

Eighty-seven percent of freshman who enrolled last fall returned for the spring semester up from last fall’s 86 percent. Freshman retention on the Natchitoches campus was 91 percent, according to Steve Hicks, executive director of the Academic and Career Engagement program at Northwestern State.

Northwestern State also continued its trend of recruiting students who were stronger academically. The average ACT score for first-time freshmen at NSU this year is 21.4, exceeding the state average by 1.2 points and the national average by 0.3 points. This year’s ACT figure is the highest average ACT score since the implementation of admission standards in 2005. The first-time entering class also had higher ACT scores in all subcategories as compared to last year’s class.

Northwestern State began working with its incoming students at last summer’s freshman orientation program, Freshman Connection, and continued that effort once fall classes began.

On the first two days of classes an Information Station was set up to help new students learn about available campus resources.

“We wanted students to get off to a positive start,” said Reatha Cox, executive director of student life and first year experience. “They were able to go to the Information Station and learn about all the resources that are here for them including counseling, tutoring and mentoring programs.”

Northwestern State expanded its President’s Leadership Program, creating a living/learning environment in campus residence halls. The program makes students aware of campus organizations they might have an interest in. Those students who are involved in extracurricular activities are more likely to remain in college and earn a degree.

“I found out about the President’s Leadership Program on the first day of class,” said Colt Waagner, a freshman secondary education major from Anacoco. “I didn’t really plan on getting involved on campus, but once I did I realized the university experience is more than getting a degree.”

Waagner is originally from Pennsylvania and moved to the area when his father was stationed at Fort Polk. He is active in the Baptist Collegiate Ministry and the Student Government Association. He will be a freshman connector working with the Fall 2012 incoming class at the Freshman Connection program.

Fellow freshman Sarah Morris of Arnaudville also decided to become involved in campus activities right away. Morris, a veterinary technology major, is a member of the Veterinary Technology Club, the Presidential Leadership Program, Up ‘til Dawn, the Catholic Student Organization and Demon Volunteers in Progress.

“I didn’t think I would get as involved I have, but I started meeting people and it was great,” said Morris. “One I got accepted into the President’s Leadership Program, it began to open my eyes about what the campus has to offer.”

Northwestern State made Orientation 1010 a required support course this academic year. The class was a core course for all majors at NSU. In Orientation 1010, students learn the academic, social and vocational skills needed to adjust to university life. They complete a career interest inventory, learn about Northwestern State regulations, requirements and traditions as well as basic study skills and development of a sound philosophy of life.

The university began a program, Project Early Early Registration, which encouraged Orientation 1010 instructors to get their students registered for spring classes. Hicks received a daily report tracking how many students in the orientation classes were registered for the spring semester.

Incoming freshman received a personalized career assessment to help them match their skills and interest to a college major. Additional advising resources were made available to NSU’s College of Nursing and Allied Health, which has approximately 700 majors on the Natchitoches campus.

“Our faculty do an outstanding job of working closely with students and that makes a big difference,” said Hicks. “Their dedication and commitment helps our students succeed.”

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