College Retention Rate

December 7, 2022
By AdmissionSight

College Retention Rate

What is a retention rate?

What is a retention rate? Let’s read more about the college retention rate. As described by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) website, the retention rate is the percentage of a school’s first-time, first-year undergraduate students who continue at that school the next year. Put more simply, though, and retention rates are a good indication of how many undergraduate students start at a college and continue their education at that college.

When evaluating a school based on retention rate, it is important to note the effect transfer students have on the rate. A student who starts at College A and then transfers to College B for the sophomore year will cause a negative retention rate for College A.

Further, that student will not even be a factor in the retention rate of College B. Additionally, the numbers can be even further skewed when considering community colleges versus destination schools.

Two students talking while walking in a campus.

Where many community colleges have positioned themselves as a jumping-off point for college students, so-called destination schools like Ivy League schools have a high retention rate because of how hard students work to get in. Both are acceptable forms of education, but where a destination school will have close to a 99% retention rate, a community college will have a much, much lower number, due mainly to their positioning as a place from which you may transfer credits to the school that you want to ultimately graduate from.

What is the importance of retention rate?

So, why is retention rate important? The retention rate measures how many students will return for their second year of school, and indicate if a school is living up to the expectations, they set when recruiting students. There are also reasons out of the school’s control that could lead a student not to return, and it is important to take this measure with a grain of salt.

Professor teaching someone using a laptop.

Why should one care about the college retention rate?

Thus, why should one care about the college retention rate? Frankly, though a college’s retention rate is just one key data point to consider, the rate itself offers a treasure trove of information for the discerning incoming freshman. Retention rates offer insight into:

How many incoming freshmen become sophomores?

If a student will struggle, it is likely to be in their first year of college, before their life has fully integrated the demands of a college education.

Female student explaining something to her classmate.

How many students maintain interest in an educational institution after enrolling?

No one leaves Harvard without a fight, but the same student may not give a second thought to leaving a local community college. A high retention rate can be a sign that a university’s administrative team gives careful consideration to meeting or exceeding student needs, including class size, class availability, and cost-benefit. This is also an indication of how strong a university’s brand is. The stronger the brand, the more pull it will give your resume.

Two students attending an online class.

How many scholars end up losing time and money due to transferring credits?

While on the surface, transferring credits to the school of your choice may seem like a sure-fire bet, sometimes credits do not transfer.

What are the colleges with the highest retention rate?

Below are the colleges with the highest retention rate:

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology – 99%
  • University of Chicago – 99%
  • Duke University – 98%
  • Northeastern University – 98%
  • Northwestern University – 98%
  • University of Notre Dame – 98%
  • Brown University – 97%
  • California Institute of Technology – 97%
  • Carnegie Mellon University – 97%
  • Columbia University – 97%
  • Cornell University – 97%
  • Dartmouth College – 97%
  • Georgia Institute of Technology – 97%
  • Johns Hopkins University – 97%
  • Rice University – 97%
  • University of California, Berkeley – 97%
  • University of California, Los Angeles – 97%
  • University of Florida – 97%
  • University of Michigan, Ann Arbor – 97%
  • University of Pennsylvania – 97%
  • University of Virginia – 97%
  • Vanderbilt University – 97%
  • Georgetown University – 96%
  • Stanford University – 96%
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – 96%
  • University of Texas at Austin – 96%
  • Villanova University – 96%
  • Washington University in St. Louis – 96%
  • Boston College – 95%
  • Emory University – 95%
  • Tufts University – 95%
  • University of Georgia – 95%
  • University of Maryland, College Park – 95%
  • University of Southern California – 95%
  • University of Wisconsin–Madison – 95%
  • Wake Forest University – 95%
  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute – 95%
  • Boston University – 94%
  • Case Western Reserve University – 94%
  • Clemson University – 94%
  • Florida State University – 94%
  • North Carolina State University – 94%
  • The Ohio State University – 94%
  • Princeton University – 94%
  • Santa Clara University – 94%
  • Stevens Institute of Technology – 94%
  • University of California, Irvine – 94%
  • University of California, San Diego – 94%
  • University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign – 94%
  • University of Washington – 94%
  • William & Mary – 94%
  • Gonzaga University – 93%
  • Lehigh University – 93%
  • New York University – 93%
  • Rutgers University, New Brunswick – 93%
  • Texas A&M University – 93%
  • Tulane University – 93%
  • University of Connecticut – 93%
  • University of Minnesota, Twin Cities – 93%
  • University of Pittsburgh – 93%

A college’s retention rate reflects the student body’s overall interest in the college. This figure can explain many factors that compose the attractiveness of a college, including the quality of its teaching staff, the relevance of its curriculum, and the perceived value of what is being taught.

Moreover, just like any other considerations, retention rate should not stand alone as your deciding factor when choosing a college. It can be helpful to know such but the key is to always be sure of your goals on what your college life should be.

Over the past decade, AdmissionSight has become an industry leader in helping students address any admission concerns so that they can pass thru applications to selective institutions throughout the world. Please feel free to contact us right away to schedule your preliminary consultation.



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