Identifying and Implementing Graduate Student Retention Strategies

February 11, 2022 Watermark Insights

Identifying and Implementing Graduate Student Retention Strategies

Higher education institutions have faced lower completion rates in recent years. Students who are less engaged and active on campus may be more likely to drop out before graduation. However, retaining students in higher education can be challenging, particularly if your institution relies on dated technology. With innovative student success software, your institution can assess student data and develop actionable steps for improving engagement. 

As a higher education professional, helping your students in and out of the classroom is your top priority. Implementing the right solutions can enable your administration to create intervention strategies and promote graduation rates. At the same time, you can streamline processes for your faculty and provide students with the support they need. 

The Challenges for Graduate Student Retention

Graduate students juggle many responsibilities at once. The responsibilities or setbacks they encounter can significantly affect their ability to complete their studies and succeed. Understanding the common challenges your students face can help your administration address these issues, which include:

  • Lack of student resources: Faculty and administrative support is key to a student's success. Some graduate students may not be aware of their institution's resources or know how to ask for help. In other cases, institutions may not have the resources and tools necessary to meet student needs. 
  • Mental health difficulties: Experiencing a personal crisis can impact a student's ability to prioritize their academics. The American Psychological Association (APA) reports that over 60% of college students had at least one mental health problem, while nearly 75% reported some degree of psychological distress. 
  • Financial obstacles: One survey found that 42% of students cited financial burdens as the top reason for dropping out of college. The inability to pay for tuition or cover the cost of school-related boarding and necessities can prevent students from staying on course with their program. 
  • School-life balance: Caring for sick loved ones, finding child care, dealing with accidents, and working a job can make students too exhausted to continue their degree. Participating in several school commitments, such as extracurricular activities, clubs, and athletics, can create time management obstacles. 
  • Workforce uncertainty: Some students lose motivation to continue with their education because they do not believe their degrees will guarantee them a job once they're ready for the workforce. 
  • Academic stress: Studies show that graduate students experience high rates of mental stress, anxiety, and depression. Graduate programs are often demanding and challenging. This can result in students feeling unprepared for the workload and believing the program is no longer a good fit.

Strategies for Improving Graduate Program Retention

Now that you know what prevents your students from completing their degrees, you can implement solutions that drive your learner success higher. Here are some proactive strategies to keep in mind to mitigate the retention dilemma with graduate programs. 

1. Use Data to Identify Warning Signs 

One of the most effective ways to prevent student dropout rates is to spot at-risk students well before they lose their motivation to continue. Using student success software, you can collect data and view student progress. This can enable your administration to see which graduate students may be struggling and are more likely to drop out. For instance, you can identify which students have poor attendance or are behind on their credits. Student data makes it easier to address retention issues by alerting your administration early on so you can implement intervention strategies. 

2. Engage At-Risk Students With Targeted Communication

Students don't always know how to ask for help, which is why communication and support from your faculty are so critical. With student success technology, you can send out personalized communications from the prospect phase to graduation. Setting the standard for positive, consistent communication can help your grad students feel supported

Graduate students may be more inclined to reach out to professors, advisors, or administrators and seek the resources they need. Maintaining regular touchpoints with at-risk students can make them feel part of a community that prioritizes their well-being and success. 

3. Gather Feedback

If enrollment and retention rates are dipping, it's always a good idea to hear from the students themselves. Collecting direct feedback from learners can help you implement immediate efforts to prevent students from leaving your institution. Consider creating a poll or survey to understand more about your grad students and their needs. 

Gather Feedback

You might inquire about what they find most challenging about their graduate program or what they believe your institution could be doing to better support them. These critical insights, along with the right tools, can help you quickly address concerns while optimizing your learners' program experiences. 

4. Regularly Review and Act on Data 

Your institution and students are constantly evolving. As a higher education professional, it's your responsibility to create a positive environment by continuously improving the culture on your campus and within your programs. By accessing valuable student data, you can make data-driven improvements that directly address your student's needs

Assessment technology also lets your institution embrace innovation while personalizing student education to each individual. The more you learn about your students and their changing challenges, the more you can elevate the student experience. 

5. Look for Opportunities to Expand Graduate Support Services

With data on your side, your higher education institution can take a proactive approach to meeting graduate student retention issues. Whether your graduate students struggle to meet curriculum requirements or need access to financial aid, there are plenty of ways you can encourage them to stay enrolled. Implementing the right software can help you identify areas for improvement, such as expanding existing services and programs or developing new outreach initiatives. 

These proactive methods can help you manage student stress and encourage participation, potentially leading to higher retention rates. Students will take notice of institutions that make an effort to provide services that cater to their needs. 

6. Apply Predictive Analysis Across Your Institution

While looking at specific student data is fundamental to making positive changes to your higher education institution, it's also important to use a widespread solution that prepares you for the future. Predictive analysis is a valuable tool that can help you promote enrollment and retention. 

From assisting you with meeting enrollment numbers to ensuring you meet your budget, predictive analysis provides key insights that help your administration accomplish more. This automated tool can compile data and analytics to show the trajectory of a student's success. With this technology, you can intervene ahead of time to prevent them from dropping out. 

Your faculty, including academic advisors and professors, can also use predictive analysis to help graduate students meet minimum education requirements for certain programs and ensure they stay on track.

Address the Retention Dilemma With Watermark

Improving student retention at your higher education institution enables learners to thrive and succeed. By understanding the challenges your students face, you can proactively mitigate these obstacles and support their needs more effectively. At Watermark, it's our goal to help higher education institutions like yours leverage important student data to implement retention interventions and engagement initiatives. 

With our tools and solutions, your administration can help your students achieve their goals. By collecting, measuring, and analyzing data, you can experience continuous improvement and simplified strategy development. From analyzing student progress to creating custom reports for faculty, Watermark can help you improve student outcomes through actionable insights. To learn more about how we can help you engage your students, request a demo today. 

Address the Retention Dilemma With Watermark

About the Author

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut euismod velit sed dolor ornare maximus. Nam eu magna eros.

More Content by Watermark Insights
Previous Article
SACSCOC Accreditation: 8 Things Peer Reviewers Want You to Know
SACSCOC Accreditation: 8 Things Peer Reviewers Want You to Know

The Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC) process of accredi...

Next Article
How Colleges Can Combat Rising Attrition Rates Through Increased Retention Efforts
How Colleges Can Combat Rising Attrition Rates Through Increased Retention Efforts

Institutions often focus their budgets on recruiting new students and overlook the financial loss associate...