What is Your College’s Retention Rate & Why Does it Matter?

When you make the decision to go to college, the last thing on your mind is your likelihood of dropping out of school. People like to picture themselves being successful and tend to gloss over the hard facts of life.

Unfortunately, a large percentage of college freshman never make it to their second year. They either transfer colleges or drop out entirely. Let’s discuss why retention is so important and what you can look for in a college to increase your chances of success.

Retention Rates

The national average for college freshmen retention is 71%. This means nearly 30% of students don’t come back to the same school, or drop out before they hit their sophomore year. Let that sink in for a minute. In a classroom of 20 people, about six won’t continue on.

I’m sure the first thing you want to do is check out what your school’s retention rate is. You can easily see this by going to College Factual’s site, find your school and click the Outcomes tab. From here you can see the percentage of undergraduates who continued on past their freshman year.

Now that you know your college’s retention rate, let’s think about why that number matters.


First up is money – both for the student and the University. Students who drop out aren’t likely to go back to college meaning this money was a waste for them. Most colleges and universities are in some way funded by either the government or private donations so for every student that drops out, the money is effectively being tossed to the wind.


Even students who transfer colleges face an uphill battle. They are much more likely to have to extend their time in college and are lucky to make it to graduation at all.

In the ideal scenario, everyone would find the perfect college for them and no one would ever transfer. Pretty unrealistic, but let’s try to set you up with success so you can try to avoid common pitfalls. Just what should you look for in a college and why do students drop out?

Finding the Right Fit

Finding the right college fit means you are much more likely to succeed in school and graduate.

Finding the right college fit means you are much more likely to succeed in school and graduate.

Students have a number of reasons for transferring or dropping out but much of it boils down to the college and the student not being a great fit. When you are determining fit for a school, you need to look at a number of criteria. Financial fit, social fit, setting fit – all are important and can easily derail you if one of these criteria don’t match your needs.

Make sure the school you choose is a good financial fit for you. Be sure to talk to the admissions office if you are running into financial trouble and need extra assistance. You should also think about the likelihood of being able to afford an extra year (or two) of college in case you take longer than anticipated to graduate.

If you are a very sociable person make sure the campus you attend has a similar vibe. Are there a lot of social groups and activities to keep you busy and engaged with other students? You may love your professors, but if you don’t get to know fellow students you can feel isolated and trapped and will have a higher chance of dropping out or transferring.

Lastly, ensure the college you pick has a good setting for you. Do you want to attend a large school in an urban setting or a school out on the prairie? This will impact your daily life so think long and hard about what kind of environment will suit your learning style best.

College Factual can give you a leg up by offering you guidance into which schools and majors may be a good fit for you. Just go to the College Factual website and click the button to “Calculate Your Best Match”. From here create a profile and start answering the questions that are most important to you. In the end College Factual will give you an idea of colleges and majors that match best with your profile.