Academic journal article College Student Journal

Personal and Social Contributors to Dropout Risk for Undergraduate Students

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Personal and Social Contributors to Dropout Risk for Undergraduate Students

Article excerpt

The purpose of the present study was to examine how personal characteristics (e.g., loneliness, interpersonal competence) and social characteristics (e.g., marginality) contributed to dropout risk among undergraduate students. The respondents (n=127 undergraduates) completed a questionnaire packet to assess all of the variables. Regression analysis indicated that loneliness was not related to dropout risk; interpersonal competence and marginality were unique predictors of risk. The findings suggested that personal and social characteristics are relevant to dropout, and students might be more proactive in addressing risk than previously presumed. Implications of the findings for research and student services are discussed.

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Dropout is defined as premature disengagement and termination of an education (Alexander, Entwisle, & Kabbani, 2001). According to Bradburn (2002) approximately one-fifth of the students who attend four-year institutions leave without completing their degrees. Dropout risk is a serious concern for students and educators. Risk is positively associated with low GPA (Cambiano, Denny, & DeVore, 2000), and negatively associated with social integration (Johnson, 1997). In addition to occupational and economic limitations, dropout is associated with other negative characteristics that could hinder future success. For example, students who dropout are more likely to feel less confident about their skills, knowledge, and capacity to complete tasks (Vazquez-Abad, Winer, & Derome, 1997). Given such hindrances, researchers need to gain a better understanding of the correlates of risk. The current study focuses specifically on social and personal correlates.

Traditionally, most studies of risk have focused on academic factors, such as GPA (Cambiano, et al., 2000; Kern, Fagley, & Miller, 1998). Recent studies have begun to expand the research by examining a broader range of factors. For example, Vazquez-Abad, et al. (1997) reported that students who were less confident upon college entrance were more likely to dropout. Dropout students had less close contact with faculty than retained students (Johnson, 1997). According to Bradburn (2002), students who had ever married or had an increase in the number of dependants (e.g., children) during their college years were more likely to prematurely end their educations. Vartanian and Gleason (1999) found that students who lived in higher income neighborhoods during their high school years had lower college risk. In a literature review, Edwards, Cangemi, and Kowalski (1990) argued that dropout students are characterized by greater immaturity, impulsiveness, and unconventionality. The current study builds upon such prior work by focusing on previously untested nonacademic factors. More specifically, we examined how the personal factors of loneliness and interpersonal competence as well as the social factor of marginality contribute to undergraduates' dropout risk.

Loneliness is defined as the subjective dissatisfaction of unmet needs in the context of personal relationships (Leung, 2002: Neto & Barros, 2000). Oswald and Clark (2003) reported that students who did not maintain friendships [from high school] during the first year of college experienced greater loneliness. However, loneliness isn't limited to social isolation; individuals can have relationships and still be lonely (Pinquart & Sorensen, 2001). Loneliness is associated with less life satisfaction and optimism among college students (Nero & Barros, 2000). In a study of students' use of online chat services, Leung (2002) reported that lonelier individuals engaged in less open, honest, or positive self-disclosure in communication with others. If campus interactions parallel their online interactions, then it is possible that lonelier students will be less involved in the college experience. Thus, loneliness might be positively related to dropout risk. …

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