2023 Student Retention Survey Results

In most higher education institutions, about a third of all first-year students eventually opt to transfer. To delve deeper into the reasons behind such decisions, we carried out a survey in the Fall of 2023. The feedback from these students offers crucial insights, paving the way to enhance student persistence and retention. Dive into the survey data below and uncover the nuanced perspectives of college students on the act of transferring.

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Summary of Findings

It’s evident that while educational opportunities are a primary factor for students transferring, the overall campus experience (orientation, amenities, extracurricular activities) and accurate portrayal of campus life also play critical roles in their decisions. Institutions focusing on enhancing these facets stand to see improved retention rates.

  • 76% of the respondents believed that better online resources displaying actual campus life would have mitigated the disconnect.
  • 66% of the respondents indicated that more campus events at their original school would have influenced their decision to transfer.
  • The majority of respondents were involved in 2 student groups or extracurricular activities at their original school.
  • The main reason for transferring schools among respondents was improved educational opportunities (39%).

Survey Demographics

Survey participants, all based in the United States, are predominantly aged between 25 and 34, with males representing 58%. Importantly, every respondent is not only currently enrolled in a college or university but is also in the midst of transferring from their original institution.

“I am currently enrolled at a college or university”
“I am currently transferring from my original college or university”

Student Perception

Which of the following best describes your motivation to transfer schools?

While the quest for superior educational opportunities remains a prominent motivation for transferring, over half of the students cite alternative reasons. Notably, universities often possess the allure of a lively campus; however, the challenge lies in effectively showcasing this vibrancy to prospective students.

Which of the following best describes your student orientation experience at your original school?

Given that a significant portion of students were either actively or somewhat involved in orientation events at their original schools, it’s essential for institutions to capitalize on these early interactions. Enhancing the quality and reach of orientation events can foster a stronger initial connection with students, potentially influencing their decision to remain with the institution. Institutions, take note: a robust and engaging orientation can set the stage for long-term student retention.

How many student groups or extracurricular activities were you involved in at your original school?

With a considerable number of respondents participating in two or more groups or activities, it’s clear that engagement outside the classroom significantly shapes the student experience. Institutions should prioritize fostering a rich extracurricular landscape and actively promoting student involvement as it may play a pivotal role in student satisfaction and retention. Encourage students to dive in; a vibrant campus life awaits!

Did you attend office hours with a professor at your original school?

With over 65% of respondents indicating they attended office hours with a professor at their original school, there’s a discernible emphasis on academic engagement and mentorship outside of regular class hours. Institutions should recognize and emphasize the value of these one-on-one interactions, ensuring both professors and students are aware of and encouraged to utilize office hours. Strengthening these academic connections can enhance student satisfaction and potentially influence retention decisions. Universities, spotlight the significance of office hours – they’re more impactful than you might think!

Yes – 65.4% No – 34.6%

How aware were you of the amenities offered at your previous school?

A near-even split between students who were “highly aware” and “somewhat aware” of the amenities at their original school underscores the necessity of effective communication about campus offerings. While a good portion felt informed, there’s room for improvement. Institutions should amplify their efforts in marketing and showcasing their amenities, ensuring that all students are not only aware but also making the most of what’s available. Universities, it’s time to elevate visibility and engagement with campus amenities to enhance the overall student experience!

Highly Aware – 65.4%     Somewhat aware – 34.6%      Not Aware – 21%

Watch our Recent Round Table on Student Retention & Persistence

In this online event, our expert panelists will discuss strategies and tactics that are helping students persist. Panelists include Gil Rogers, Host of “For Your Institution” podcast. Aaron Basko, Vice President of Enrollment Management at University of Lynchburg. Also speaking is John Andrick, Assistant Dean of Students and Director of the Center of Student Success at Concordia College.

Access the Round Table

If your original school offered more campus events, would it have influenced your decision to transfer?

A striking 66% of respondents indicated that an increase in campus events could have swayed their decision to transfer. This underscores the pivotal role of an active and inclusive campus community in retaining students. Institutions should take heed: a centralized event calendar for your entire campus can help keep all the events in one spot, and show exactly how vibrant your campus is. It’s an investment not just in events, but in student satisfaction and retention. Universities, seize the opportunity to captivate and engage your students through enriching campus events!

Yes – 66.2%          No – 33.8%

Which of the following best describes your feelings around navigating (parking, transit, locating classrooms, etc.) your original campus?

The data suggests that while a commendable 43.8% found campus navigation simple with ample resources, a notable percentage felt it was either somewhat challenging or overtly difficult due to a lack of resources. Institutions should consider this feedback as a call to action: refining campus navigation, improving signage, and leveraging technology will greatly enhance the student experience. Universities, a smooth and stress-free campus navigation process can contribute significantly to overall student satisfaction—let’s make every journey on campus a pleasant one!

On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your overall mental well-being at your original school?

The question of overall mental well-being at the original school is a critical one, indicating how students felt on a deeply personal level. Given the varied responses on the scale, it’s evident that mental well-being varies across the student body. Institutions must recognize the importance of mental health support and resources, ensuring that every student has the necessary tools and environments to thrive emotionally and academically. Universities, take this as a cue to invest more robustly in mental health initiatives — your students’ well-being is paramount.

At your original school, was there a disconnect between how you perceived campus life online compared with actually physically being on campus?

A significant 62.6% of respondents felt a disconnect between their online perception of campus life and the actual on-ground experience. This highlights a pressing issue: the representation of campus life online is not matching the lived experience of a majority of students. Institutions should prioritize bridging this gap by ensuring that digital portrayals are authentic and comprehensive. Universities, it’s time to reassess and realign your online presence to mirror the true vibrancy and offerings of campus life—accuracy in portrayal can influence retention and satisfaction!

Yes – 62.6%            No – 37.4%

Would better online resources displaying actual campus life before you enrolled have mitigated this disconnect?

An overwhelming 75.72% of students believe that enhanced online resources showcasing genuine campus life could have addressed the perceived disconnect they experienced. This data speaks volumes about the power of accurate digital representation. Universities should heed this call to revamp their online resources, ensuring they resonate with the on-ground reality. An accurate digital window into campus life can greatly influence prospective and current students’ perceptions and decisions. Universities, it’s time to leverage the digital realm for a more transparent, engaging, and true-to-life depiction of your campus experience!

Yes – 75.7%            No – 24.3%


These survey results highlight notable discrepancies between students’ online perceptions and their on-campus experiences. The emphasis on accurate online representation and genuine campus engagements is evident. While many students prioritize educational opportunities, factors like campus orientation, amenities, and extracurricular involvement also significantly influence their decisions to transfer. Addressing these concerns is crucial for institutions aiming to enhance student satisfaction and retention.

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Watch our Recent Round Table on Student Retention & Persistence

In this online event, our expert panelists will discuss strategies and tactics that are helping students persist. Panelists include Gil Rogers, Host of “For Your Institution” podcast. Aaron Basko, Vice President of Enrollment Management at University of Lynchburg. Also speaking is John Andrick, Assistant Dean of Students and Director of the Center of Student Success at Concordia College.

Access the Round Table

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