Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Adult, Career and Higher Education

Major Professor

Waynne B. James, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Thomas Miller, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Jennifer O'Brien, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Patricia Maher, Ph.D.


Academic Success, Expectations, First-year Seminar, Retention


Performance-based funding is becoming the norm in higher education. High-impact practices like first-year seminars hold promise for improving some of the key metrics in the funding model, such as first-year retention rate and first-year institutional GPA.

The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship of retention rate and institutional GPA between first-time-in-college (FTIC) students who completed a first-year seminar and those who did not. Additional data regarding pre-college experiences and expectations for college were investigated to gain insight into retention and academic success behaviors of FTIC students. Three years of data including institutional Beginning College Survey of Student Engagement (BCSSE) scores, high school GPAs, enrollment data, and student grades were collected. Due to a significant difference in high school GPA between summer and fall admits, all analyses were conducted separately for each group.

For both summer and fall admits, results from the chi-square tests of homogeneity and independent samples t tests indicated no significant difference in retention rates or mean institutional GPA between FTIC students who completed a first-year seminar and those who did not. Logistic and multiple linear regression tests were conducted to determine whether FTIC student retention and institutional GPA could be predicted by pre-college experience and expectations as measured by the BCSSE. For fall admits only, two of the nine BCSSE scales, expected academic perseverance and perceived academic preparation were significant predictors for retention. For predicting institutional GPA, summer and fall admits shared two significant predictors from the BCSSE: high school learning strategies and importance of campus environment. For fall admits only, there were three additional significant predicators: high school quantitative reasoning, expected collaborative learning, and perceived academic preparation.

The results of this study may encourage higher education institutions to consider assessment of their own first-year seminars. The impact of a first-year seminar may be improved by developing curriculum that addresses the skills, experience, and expectations unique to each institution’s first-year students.