Encouraging College Student Success: The Instructional Challenges, Response Strategies, and Study Skills of Contemporary Undergraduates

Article excerpt

College students increasingly bring complex issues to campus and choose to manage their academic careers and personal lives in a variety of ways. Yet, these strategies for dealing with personal and academic challenges are the fundamental issues that colleges and universities need to explore in order to help their students succeed. This study examined the study skills college students use, the challenges they face, and how they see themselves responding or coping with these challenges. Results offer the not surprising finding that in academic areas students generally behave individually, choosing to invest their time at home and not on campus or in organized group study or tutoring environments.

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Enrollment in higher education is projected to increase from approximately 15 million students in 2001 to nearly 18 million by 2012 (Chronicle of Higher Education, 2002). These students are predominantly enrolled in undergraduate programs, where projections during the next decade forecast an enrollment of 15 million undergraduate students alone by 2010. These students bring an increasingly diverse set of experiences and expectations to campus, in addition to representing a much broader spectrum of diversity (Howe & Strauss, 2000). One simple indicator of these changing expectations is the increase in the number of colleges applied to by first-time freshman, with over 20% applying to five or more different colleges. Institutions are responding with increasingly sophisticated and savvy marketing strategies that highlight a lifestyle as well academic major choice.

Institutions are responding in numerous ways to changes in student perceptions about their college experience, especially stressing the mechanisms and tools necessary to increase timely matriculation and retention. Borland (forthcoming) in particular defined the entire enrollment management movement as a reflection of the desire for colleges and universities to be more accountable to their student populations. Institutions respond to student needs by engaging in critical planning that addresses the behaviors of students, including variables such as how students study, defining computer needs, and among others, offering counseling services.

The current study was designed to examine how current undergraduate students view their own study skills, what challenges they face, and how they respond to these challenges. The purpose for conducting the current study is to profile current undergraduate student academic behaviors in the hope of developing a baseline for future predictions of barriers to academic success and enabling strategies for success. By identifying such a baseline, institutions, at varying levels of administration, will be able to look carefully at ways to help students succeed by designing unique programs, facilitating the interchange between and among students and faculty, and by providing the infrastructure necessary to breed academic success.

College Student Success

There are a wide variety of issues surrounding college student success, as profiled by many authors and catalogued by Pascarella and Terenzini (1991). Central to these findings are such concepts as student integration to campus and personal directedness toward specific outcomes or ends. Despite the identification of particular themes relating to college student success, variables such as gender, multi-ethnicity, and at-risk variables such as social economic status and emotional maturity can all play major roles in student retention and academic success (for example, see McDonough, Antonio, & Trent, 1997). The majority of these research studies do not offer specific solution sets to institutions on how to create a campus environment that better fosters student success.

A number of best-practice recommendations and research-based findings surrounding student success in college are related to personal attributes. These personal attributes can range from technology aptitude (Twale & Schaller, 2003) to communication or writing apprehension levels (Miller & Edmunds, 1995) or experiences and attitudes toward education (Spitzer, 2000) developed as an adolescent (Galotti & Kozberg, 1996). …

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