High school students spend hours researching for one of the biggest decisions of their life, picking a college. They look at many different schools in order to find the perfect fit. However, some still get it wrong.
“It is not realistic to think that nobody is going to leave, it just isn’t,” Merredyth McManus, St. Ambrose Director of Student Concerns, said.
McManus works one-on-one with students who are having trouble making the adjustment at St. Ambrose. Her job is to advise students to make a good decision on their future, whether at St. Ambrose or elsewhere.
But many of them still get it right. The freshman retention rate is continuously rising. In fall 2012, 582 students entered St. Ambrose as freshmen. Of those students, 468 returned this fall as sophomores, an 80.4 percent retention rate. This is a great increase from the previous year’s retention rate of 77.9 percent.
“An 80 percent rate is realistic and is our goal, anything more than that is amazing. It’s a gift actually,” McManus said.
Academic issues are the main reason freshmen transfer. Some students are not prepared well enough in high school and end up transferring to their local community college. There are a few freshmen who believe that college is a time for partying and being social. They seem to forget about academics, which leads to transfers.
Financial challenges, homesickness, mental or physical health, family issues or obligations, and different majors are also some of the reasons the retention rate can fall. Through McManus’s 16 years at the university, the reasons for freshmen transferring out have changed.
“Many students used to come to St. Ambrose first and then transfer to another four year school similar to us,” McManus said. “But recently more students are transferring to their community colleges close to home.”
Also, more recently students have been coming to St. Ambrose knowing they will transfer, using the university as a stepping stone to help them get accepted to their dream school.
Mental health issues have become more prevalent in recent years than ever before.
“In the counseling center, we only have two counselors,” McManus said. “If we had four I am sure they would all be busy constantly.”