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Section I: Introduction

Though the freshmen year in college may be a wonderful chance, this transition period may as well bring significant separation anxiety, subsequent grieving, and loss that may lead to dropping out of many freshmen. For students who have to leave the college, the process is usually discouraging and painful. The research is required to understand the reasons that contribute to the attrition and how the policy makers may come up with better policies that would help students pass their freshman year.

Definition of the Problem

During the first year in college, freshmen lose much, that is familiar in their cultural and social environments and they tend to turn to a close support system to relieve stress. According to Allen (2001), the students for whom college loses entreaties may seek help from the family members only to find that their families are not prepared for their grief reactions. The African-American and Caucasian male students who are first generation to attend college differ in the extent at which they assume loss of social support as they join college. 

When a significant percentage of freshmen at a liberal college failed to resume college for their second year, and there was a declining level of enrolment that was reaching about 30%, the college was forced to reduce the number of programs and to make temporary cuts in the teaching staff (Jain, 2008).

When the students continue to drop out of college, both the colleges and the students lose. It is for such reason, that faculty and administrators consider students’ retention in college as a fundamental issue that involves both students and their operational budgets. One of the possible reasons for dropping out among the freshmen may be that the students who are admitted are never prepared for college, implying that they lack sufficient social and academic readiness and may be suffering from lack of self-esteem or have low self-confidence. There are freshmen who have enrolled in college, not because they wanted to study, but because their family expects them to do so or have coerced them to do so. Consequently, such students tend to be unmotivated and are not committed to studies (Gray, 2008).

Research indicates that about 50% of the college students may dropout during the college years, where the highest rate of dropping out occurs during the freshmen year.  The first semester of college is a significant period since freshmen are very impressionable during this period and are influenced by the factors that cause them to drop out. The percentage of the students who continue from their freshmen to their second year at North Carolina State University is approximately 89%, while nationally the percentage in the US is 64.5% (Newton, Students Helping Students: A Guide for Peer Educators on College Campuses, 2010).

Definitions

Attrition                      

The dropout of (freshmen) students during their first year of college

Authoritative parenting method                       

It is a child bringing up method in which guardians or parents use firm, though fair discipline.

Degree completion                  

Refers to accomplishment of the bachelor’s degree

First-year student                    

Student who may be classified as freshman at a college                                  

Loss of social support

An assumed lack of understanding and concern from family of a student

Retention                                            

To consistently remain in college until the graduation

Upward Bound

Refers to a pre-college program that helps high school graduates with the basic ideas and motivation for successful enrolment into college

Significance of Study

Research on college student retention have attracted increased attention over the last two decades, this is so because both the financing for colleges and the number of the available students are decreasing. The financing for higher education is lowering as a result of the economic meltdown. For some colleges, the reduction of revenue has indicated not only the reduction of academic programs but also the reduction in the students’ services from college. The implementation of the findings from the current work may provide a valuable insight to the policy makers who are interested in the freshman year encounter of the college students by assisting the administrators in identifying the at-risk freshmen so they may design programs that are significant in preventing students from dropping out of college (Seidman, 2012).

According to documented researches, the students’ retention depends significantly on their experiences during their freshman year. Regardless of the freshmen’s background and experiences, the earlier the students develop the interpersonal support systems and take part in campus social life, the more likely they achieve success in college. The freshmen who adopt better into the college life socially and academically may relate to faculty, staff, and other students of different cultural backgrounds, life experience, sexual orientation, skin colour, and physical abilities (Smart, 2011).

The colleges bare educational and moral obligations to create conducive academic environment that will give the freshmen the maximum chance for success. The outcomes of the current research may uncover some information regarding the needs of freshmen population and help the policy makers and the faculties in providing the enriching out-of-college experiences that lead to attainment of freshmen`s social and academic goals.

Problem Statement

In the ideal world, all students who enroll in college would complete their course. Unfortunately, about half of the freshmen who enter colleges do not complete their courses; any may not graduate within the stipulated time. The first year has the highest rates of dropout, where most students exist within the first six weeks of admission because they do not adjust to the college life either socially or academically. The North Carolina State University has approximately 12% dropout rate during the first year. The current study will focus on the problem of dropping out among the freshmen (Jain, 2008).

To address the dropout problem the current study will examine the experience of freshmen who take part in Upward Bound to establish whether the program has contributed to the students’ retention. By 2002, there were about 772 Upward Bound programs in the US. However, there are only a few studies that have examined these programs in regard to the retention of the freshmen in college and on the causes of dropout in colleges among the freshmen (Yiannakis, 2001).

Research Question

Colleges have been trying to determine the attrition problem among their students for decades.  There are several programs such as faculty mentoring and peer tutoring. The current work seeks to address the questions:

  1. At what college level are the cases of dropout pronounced?
  2. What are the key reasons that lead to dropout among the freshmen in college?
  3.  What kinds of social practices can help the students pass the first year of college?
  4.  What kinds of assistance help freshmen in making a commitment not to drop out of college?

Literature Review

The challenge that is facing most colleges currently is that of dropout among the freshmen. With the significant loss of students, colleges are losing significant revenues from state, federal, and local sources. Therefore attention must be paid towards retaining freshmen students. The previous researches have indicated that most college students dropout during their first year as compared to other years, more so majority of those who dropout do so within the first six weeks. The first six weeks are the most difficult time for freshmen students, and they tend to determine whether a student will stay or leave the college (Allen J. K., 2008).

Freshmen students experience the feeling of alienation from peers and from faculty, anxiety and loneliness from being separated from their families and friends, there is also the problem of adjusting to their new environment (Harris, 2009).

There are numerous researchers who have studied the reasons behind the dropping out among the freshmen (Allen A. , 2001). Being the first person in the family to attend tertiary institution, the distance from home, frequency of visiting home, the extent to which the parents/guardians are authoritative, and financial challenges have been identified as some of the key causes of dropout. The first year in a college is a significant period for determining how students will feature academically during their lifetime in college. The freshmen, who have difficulties in adjusting both academically and socially, tend to be less persistent in completing the college studies (Greenwood, 2009).

However, the enrolment of freshmen students into college studies are still on rise, an implication that high school graduates are prepared to further their studies. According to education experts, parents of high school graduates are cardinal in the teenagers` decision to continue studies in college. Currently, there are more high school graduates who have educated parents, therefore, with the trend of more and more parents receiving college education, the college enrolment by high school graduates will continue to increase (Johnson, 2007).

Section II: Methodology

Introduction

In the current work, qualitative techniques to investigate the freshman-year experiences of the respondents will be used. In particular focus will be on the causes of the dropout among the college students during their freshman year. The qualitative methods have been identified by previous researches (Housel, 2011) as most effective compared to quantitative techniques. There are limitations that are associated with the application of quantitative methods of data collection, such as surveys. This is so, since the standardised data tend to be insufficient in answering the subtle questions regarding personal experiences (Gardner, 2007).

Research Design

Putting into consideration that some questions, concerning education, may not be addressed by collecting numerical data, qualitative research paradigm, applying focus group interview for the data will be applied in the current dissertation. The qualitative research design will be involved in obtaining data from the freshmen students and from Upward Bound graduates.

Population and the Sample Size

The freshmen students and the Upward Bound graduates selected to take part in the focus group interview will form the sample from the population of all the freshmen as defined in the current work (Flippo, 2008).

The Colleges that will take part may be tabulated as:

Host College

N

1.Community College

**

2.Saint College

**

3.State University

**

4.State College

**

5.Northern College

**

-

-

k. Central College

**

NB: The colleges are hypothecally used as placeholders

** Will be replaced with actual figures of students selected to participate in the focus group from each college. Where;

Host college represents the college from which sample is taken

n  is the number of freshmen students selected from each college

N is the total number of the respondents, N= ; where i=1, 2, 3… k

After obtaining the approval to conduct the research, I will mail letters for recruitment to the identified host colleges; the application will be accompanied by already stamped ni postcard for reply. The sample n of the respondent will be obtained out of the applications replied to from the selected colleges. The n will be considered in the formation of the focus group. Prior to the commencement of the interview, the purpose and the processes of the research will be made known to the respondents who will also read and sign a consent form.

The focus group interview is a preferred technique of investigating the proposed study since it provides an in-depth exploration of the topic (Feldman, 2004). It is argued that the advantage of the focus group interview is that the respondents are allowed the opportunity to make additional comments, and it also provides means of controlling the quality of the data collected.

To collect the data the researcher will jolt down the responses as the tape recorder is run for back-up.

Interview Questions

  1. Would you tell me about your family and yourself?
  2. How would you describe you freshman year so far?
  3. How did you feature your first year in college?
  4. What would you attribute to your performance in your freshman year?
  5. In what ways did your performance in the freshman year your performance?
  6. How did you prepare prior to joining the college?

Data Analysis

The data analysis will involve identifying themes, coherent examples, and the patterns that come out of the different categories of the theoretical framework. The data will be organized by themes after listening to the recordings, reviewing the notes, and after transcribing the session recorded tapes. 

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