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NC colleges where freshman beat the odds.

Updated: Jan 19, 2020

It's fall break at many colleges across the nation. Freshman are returning home, many for the first time since their parents dropped them off in August. They had all arrived with great expectations of a classes they would love and 4 years of college bliss. But now, for many, the "honeymoon phase" is over. Their expectations have met reality, and for some it wasn't a pretty sight. They have been stretched academically, socially, emotionally and financially, and as a result some of them are contemplating changing their major, changing schools, or dropping out. Nationwide, 30% of students drop out after their freshman year and half never graduate. The reasons are varied; from financial issues, academic struggles, family problems, loneliness, and immaturity. However, some schools do a better job of retaining their freshman than others. The top 5 colleges in North Carolina all boast retention rates of over 90%.

#1 Duke University- 97%

#2 University of North Carolina Chapel Hill- 97%

#3 Davidson-96%

#4 NC State University- 93%

#5 Wake Forest University- 94%

Other North Carolina schools with lower freshman retention rates include:

High Point University- 77%

Meredith College- 75%

Lenoir Rhyne- 66%

Lees McRae- 62%

Montreat- 61%

Mars Hill- 57%

Studies suggest that schools with stricter admission standards boast higher retention rates because they attract more motivated students. Affordability of the school also influences how many students stick around for their sophomore year. Often, families underestimate the true costs of attending certain schools, and the bills for freshman year expenses offer a serious wake-up call.

Another common scenario is that a student doesn’t realize how little their high school prepared them for college-level coursework until they find themselves struggling to make the grade in their first year classes. They enter college unaware of the realities associated with the field they are entering and the rigor of the study involved to reach their goals. Not to mention that with colleges investing thousands in marketing, many students are disillusioned when reality doesn't match the pictures they saw on the glossy brochures.

Some strategic planning and research during the high school years can help students make wise decisions about which college to attend and how to beat the odds and graduate on time with a degree they love. Before booking campus tours, make sure your student takes a few crucial steps to prepare.

1. Research the retention and graduation rates at colleges on your list. You can find those details here and here.

2. Discuss the cost of the colleges you are interested in attending and use a net price calculator to estimate how much you will have to pay or borrow in order to attend. Be honest with your student about the financial realities of attending college. Read this post about paying for college for some great advice.

3. Encourage your teen to spend a significant amount of time researching career fields that they think they might be interested in. They can do this through job shadowing, informational interviews and career testing. Find colleges that excel in their field of interest.

4. Make sure your student is emotionally and academically ready for the rigors of college. If not, take a year off to take classes at a local community college, work, or participate in a gap year program. Many students find that taking a break helps them focus their efforts and be more motivated when they do attend college, and most top colleges encourage strategic gap years because they see the benefits in student's maturity and motivation when they return.

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