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Running Head: PRACTICUM PAPER

Institutional Practices for Addressing Undergraduates Reasons for Attending College


Practicum Paper
Matt Corbett, Scott Levitt, Alyssa Shears, DEvelyn Wymore
Florida State University

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Purpose
This paper critically examines various higher education institutions perspectives and
practices regarding students reasons for attending college. The relevance and need for
addressing this topic are discussed through the use of research and institutional visits. A total of
eight institutions were visited for a broader perspective in this paper; four institutions were
located in or near Jacksonville, Florida and the other four were located in or near London,
England. The information reported is based on brief experiences at each of these institutions
including general discussions with student affairs administrative personnel, campus tours, and
interviews with admissions and recruitment personnel. This paper explores the Jacksonville
institutions in depth. However, due to limited exposure and information regarding the London
institutions, the international perspective is discussed generally and briefly; it is included to
provide a more holistic perspective of higher education and student services on an international
level. Based on the research and observations, future implications regarding institutional
practices are addressed at the end of this paper.

Relevant Research
The Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS), which seeks
to professionalize higher education through rigorous standards, repeatedly mentions the use of
student goals and motivations for the admission, retention, and success of students. For example,
admissions offices are encouraged to contribute tostudent progression and timely completion
of educational goals as well as identify relevant and desirable student learning and
development outcomes (CAS Professional Standards, 2014, p. 461). Academic advisors are also

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urged to support [college] students, on an ongoing basis, as they establish and evaluate their
educational, career, and life goals (CAS Professional Standards, 2014, p. 40). These standards
establish the consideration of student goals and motivations as a core value of the higher
education profession.
Research suggests students reasons for pursuing higher education vary and initial
motivations predict future academic performance and persistence (Vansteenkiste et al., 2009).
There are three overarching types of motivations; autonomous motivation, controlled motivation,
and amotivation. Students who are autonomously motivated to continue their education do so
with the intention of gaining knowledge, accomplishment, and stimulation while students who
are control-motivated attend college in order to demonstrate knowledge or gain a financial
reward later on in life. Amotivation refers to students who are unsure of their next steps and
therefore go to college to find a passion, follow their friends, or please family (Hill, 2013).
According to the UK National Audit Office (2007), over 100,000 full-time and part-time
university students do not complete the first year of their degree program and dropout rates
across the UK are steadily increasing (p. 4). In the United States, 30% of college students drop
out during or after their first year (Chronicle of Higher Education, 2013). The type of motivation
that a student exhibits can predict his or her academic success; for example, autonomously
motivated students reported positive experiences and high levels of engagement during their first
years of college. (Vansteenkiste, 2009). Guiffrida (2013) believes higher education professionals
must better understand relationships between student motivation and academic outcomes to
increase [their] understanding of the college persistence puzzle (p. 123).
Keys to understanding this persistence puzzle may lie with self-determination theory.
Self-determination theory combines motivation, personality, and development and proposes that

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students who are intrinsically motivated are more conducive learners than those who are
extrinsically motivated (Deci & Ryan, 2002). According to Guiffrida (2013), principles of selfdetermination theory help to recognize relations between motivational orientation and college
student academic achievement and persistence (p. 127).
In addition, institutions of higher education are finding new methods to reach prospective
students during the recruitment process. Many colleges are taking a more individualised
approach and are utilizing technologies such as social media to communicate with students and
parents. A study conducted by Lindbeck and Fodrey examined the relative importance of various
technologies in undergraduate admissions via a survey of college freshmen. The researchers
found that e-mail and school websites were the two most important technologies, followed by
phone, social networking, videos, blogs, and audio content (as cited in Sandvig, 2016, p.2).

Florida Institutions
Florida State College at Jacksonville
Florida State College at Jacksonville is a large, public school located throughout the city
of Jacksonville, Florida. Florida State College at Jacksonville began as a junior college in 1965,
enrolling a total of 2,610 students during its first year (Florida State College at Jacksonville,
2014). Within the next two decades, Florida State College at Jacksonville worked tenaciously to
develop into a larger institution, building four additional campuses located in the Jacksonville
area. Today, 52,190 students are currently enrolled at the Downtown, Kent, North, Open, and
South campuses (Florida State College at Jacksonville, 2012).
Florida State College at Jacksonville is primarily a community college; however, it
received accreditation to offer baccalaureate degrees in 2007. In addition to baccalaureate

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degrees, Florida State College at Jacksonville offers associate degrees in sciences, applied
sciences, and arts, in addition to technical certificates and workforce certificates. The wide array
of degree offerings allows Florida State College at Jacksonville to uphold its mission to provide a
high value and lifelong education that enhances the intellectual, social, cultural and economic
development of its diverse community (Florida State College at Jacksonville, 2012).

Recruitment Practices
Florida State College at Jacksonville has a team of seven recruiters who communicate
with 30 public high schools and five private schools. The recruiters are trained rigorously to
effectively deliver a general series of six presentations that discuss topics on why people attend
college, how to choose a major, how to pay for college, and various expectations of the college
student experience. These recruitments efforts are broadly themed, yet they delivered
strategically to target populations and target areas. This is decidedly important because of the
diverse student population in terms of academic endeavors.
Florida State College at Jacksonville serves many different types of students who come
from various different backgrounds. Because Florida State College at Jacksonville offers an array
of degreeswhich all serve different student populationsthe student body makeup is
remarkably diverse in regard to academic pursuits and dispositions. These students range from
adult learners to terminal degree-seekers, technical degree seekers, and traditional college
students. Florida State College at Jacksonville is strategic about the ways in which they recruit
different student populations in order to enroll the best number of students for all of their
degrees. The institution offers early college programs and college preparation programs
throughout for high school students. Florida State College at Jacksonville makes note that this

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strategy is specifically for the Duval and Nassau County schools because of the institutional
mission to servicing the local areas.
Admitted Students
Florida State College at Jacksonville had a significantly high number of students with the
academic demographic of continuing education, totaling to 19,012 enrolled in 2014 (Florida
State College at Jacksonville, 2014). Florida State College at Jacksonville has identified two
challenges in regards to adult learners. First is the challenge of connecting with adult learners to
inform them that it is best to enroll in college sooner rather than later. Recruiters hear adult
learners tell them they have difficulty making the decision to enroll because of how busy they are
in their full-time position, family responsibilities, and other commitments. For Florida State
College at Jacksonville, the greatest challenge is to help adult learners realize the return on
investment, while also informing them that the investment weakens as they continue to age. The
second challenge university administrators see in adult learners is the inability to finish the
degree in which they enrolled, and it goes back to the busy schedules that many adult learners
have to juggle. Florida State College at Jacksonville recognizes that every adult learner has
different time commitments, which, therefore, influence the duration of time in which they are
enrolled in college. Florida State College at Jacksonville advocates for the adult learner, and
provides part-time student advising and support that assist in the success for this non-traditional
student population.
Florida State College at Jacksonville offers bolstered academic support once students
arrive to campus to assist them in affirming, investigating, and selecting their career path. They
make this support evident to students during recruitment processes so that students recognize
they are supported in the early stages of their career trajectory. Florida State College at

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Jacksonville offers academic support during orientation in three specific ways. Florida State
College at Jacksonville measures the degree of success of a student on the selected track, and
will green-light the students for the selected degree. However, if someone is not academically
ready to take on a rigorous degree, they are clustered in a set of related programs that align with
the profession they are seeking. This academic support is known as the career cluster, and
Florida State College at Jacksonville provides support for students who are investigating areas of
interest within the cluster of majors. The last academic support service that Florida State College
at Jacksonville is provided to its undecided students, who make up the majority of all first year
students. Florida State College at Jacksonville helps the undecided students discover areas of
interest while they enroll in general coursework so that they will graduate on schedule.

Flagler College
Flagler College is a small, private residential college located in the historic and coastal
city of St. Augustine, Florida. The buildings were initially used as a hotel beginning in 1888 by
Henry Flagler, and the college was established in 1968. Flagler College is committed to the
preservation of...historic structures while striving to offer a liberal arts and pre-professional
curriculum and promote high-impact learning experiences (Flagler College, 2014).
Flagler College serves a diverse student body of 2,546, approximately 60 percent of
which are from Florida while the remaining students come from 40 other states and 45 foreign
countries (Flagler College, 2015). Flagler is proud of their relatively low cost; students pay
$27,620 in tuition, room, and meal plan per academic year (Flagler College, 2016). While Flagler
College is considered a residential campus, only approximately 1,000 students live on campus;
the college aims to raise that number to sixty percent (Daniel Stewart, personal communication,

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May 9, 2016). Flagler allows students to use state scholarships and also offers merit-based
scholarships annually.

Recruitment Practices
One popular recruitment method the Flagler admissions team uses is the use of college
fairs from September to November. In addition, they visit local, state, and national schools. The
Vice President of Student Services, Daniel Stewart, described admissions as tuition driven and
explained that Flagler has target areas from which they recruit based on previous enrollment,
usually the eastern seaboard from private high schools (personal communication, May 9, 2016).
In order to expand their outreach practices, the admissions team has begun to monitor the social
media forums more closely and work more in the evenings.
Since Flagler college is a small institution, the admissions team works strongly with the
students on an individualized basis for the application process. They strive to create a personal
relationship with the applicants. Rachel Branch, the director of Undergraduate admissions,
stated, [The students] all know us by our first name. They all have our direct office numbers
[and] our emails (Branch, R. personal communication, May 9, 2016). Flagler offers many
unique programs, drawing a diverse group of students to the institution. Rachel explained, Its
tough to figure out what motivates a 17 or 18 year old to go to college (personal
communication, May 9, 2016). The admissions team learns the most about students goals
through their essays and, frequently, the team has to clarify the purpose of the liberal arts
institution for students. For example, Ms. Branch explained, we dont have programs that lead
to medical school theres just not enough sciences here (personal communication, May 9,
2016).

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Admitted Students
The student affairs staff believe students who come to Flagler choose the institution based
primarily on the location, low private college cost, the small community, and popular majors
such as business, communication, and sport management (Holland, M. & Stewart, D., personal
communication, May 9, 2016). Many students change their major after their first or second
semester while other students will get more specific with their intended major and career
(Branch, personal communication, May 9, 2016).
While Flagler has a solid 77 percent retention rate between freshman and sophomore
year, some students decide to leave. Ms. Branch believes this may be due to the lack of movie
college experience students may expect in terms of sports and parties or simply a change in
career goals such as a desire to pursue medical school (personal communication, May 9, 2016).
Since many students and families are looking for a job...when they graduate, Flagler strives to
stay competitive with a limited number of program (personal communication, May 9, 2016).

Jacksonville University
Jacksonville University (JU) is a four-year private university located in Jacksonville,
Florida. The university was originally founded in 1934 as a junior college offering night classes
only. In the early 1950s, Jacksonville University became a four-year, co-ed institution. In the
1990s, JU officially declared itself as a liberal arts college in order to increase funding
(Jacksonville University, 2014). The university prides itself on the merit of its liberal arts degrees
as well as creating rewarding and meaningful experiences for its students.

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JU is a small institution with approximately 3,700 undergraduate students currently


enrolled. The majority of JU students are from Florida as well as the southeastern and
northeastern United States but also has students from over 50 foreign countries. In addition, the
male to female ratio is approximately one-to-one (Jacksonville University, 2014). Jacksonville
University is made up of four colleges; Fine Arts, Arts & Sciences, Business, and Brooks
Rehabilitation of Healthcare Sciences. They are also known for four programs that are unique to
JU; these programs include aviation, marine science, healthcare, and public policy (VanOekel,
personal communication, 2016).

Recruitment Practices
Erin McFeely, the Assistant Director of Admissions at Jacksonville University, spoke of
common recruitment practices Jacksonville University has adopted such as attending college
fairs and visiting high schools, purchasing student information via test companies, and using
website inquiries to begin drip campaigns (personal communication, 2016). Perhaps the most
unique aspect of the recruitment process at Jacksonville University is the individualized attention
students receive from the JU recruiting outreach team. Because JU is not a well-known
institution, the recruitment team uses communication techniques to entice potential students that
many large institutions cannot replicate. JU recruiters personally call students who have
expressed an interest in the university and work with the student to solve any problems
throughout the application process and beyond. In order to keep up with influx of applications,
Jacksonville University uses a rolling admissions process. By offering rolling admissions, the JU
recruitment team is able to spread out the admissions process throughout the entire academic
year and provide each student with the attention they need and deserve. Once students have

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committed to JU, the retention team continues the individualized efforts to ensure students
success. The retention team sends postcards to students and their families over school breaks to
keep in touch as well as make house calls where staff members knock on students doors in the
residence halls to check in and encourage students to attend their classes.

Admitted Students
The majority of students who attend Jacksonville University previously attended private
schools while in the K12 system. We understand that we are a small private school so we aim
our recruiting methods towards students who will benefit from our institution (McFeely,
personal communication, 2016). According to Jacksonville Universitys admissions officer, Greg
Van Oekel, students come to JU because they are attracted to our degree programs, athletics,
and the benefits of a small school (personal communication, 2016). Admissions recruiters also
take into account current student themes that have arisen over the past few years during the
recruitment process. These themes include: valuing relationships with peers and faculty,
connectedness both socially and electronically, close parental relationships, a decrease in alcohol
and drug use, diversity and inclusion, reporting issues of concern, and student leadership.
(VanOekel, personal communication, 2016). These themes are highlighted by the recruitment
team during college fairs and presentations to convey the values of current JU students to
interested students in order to help these potential students decide whether Jacksonville
University is the right fit for them.

Edward Waters College

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Edward Waters College (EWC) is a private, historically black college. Initially founded in
1866 for the education of freed slaves, the college is located in the urban center of Jacksonville,
Florida. It was accredited as junior college in 1955 and as a four-year institution in 1979. The
college maintains a religious affiliation with the African Methodist Episcopal Church and values
Christian principles.
The EWC vision and mission focus on preparing approximately 900 students for a global
society. According to the Dr. Eric Jackson, Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment
Management, 95 percent of all EWC students receive financial aid (E. Jackson, personal
communication, May 10, 2016). Dr. Jackson also confirms that 88 percent of students are from
Florida but have students from 12 different states and 6 different countries (E. Jackson, personal
communication). All students pay the same $19,800 for tuition, room, and board per academic
year (E. Jackson, personal communication).

Recruitment Practices
Since Edward Waters College is a private, small, historically black college, they are often
financially challenged and enrollment driven, meaning the funding is based on what the fall
class size will be (E. Jackson, personal communication, 2016). In a local news report, Erica
Bennett (2014) explains, Dwindling enrollment, less federal funding and more college options
are creating unique challenges [for small historically black colleges and universities]. The first
goal in the strategic plan is to increase recruitment, retention, and graduation rates (Edward
Waters College, 2011).
In an effort to improve initial enrollment, the admissions staff has taken new strides in
recruitment. They are utilizing technology to increase advertising online. They buy student lists

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from ACT and SAT reports to obtain contact information of students who may be interested in
Edward Waters College. The college is also a part of the common black college application,
which allows students to apply to any number of 46 HBCUs at the same time for only $35
(Common Black College Application, 2015). To continue increasing enrollment, Dr. Jackson
hopes to use profits from enrollment this year to hire a large marketing firms to advertise the
college next year (personal communication, May 10, 2016).

Admitted Students
In addition, enrollment numbers and funding are dependant on student retention and
graduation. Currently, EWC has a retention rate of 51 percent, although they aim to raise that
rate to at least 76 percent. Currently, the college accepts students who may not have the highest
GPA or highest test score, because EWC believes in giving everyone who wants a degree an
opportunity to get a degree (E. Jackson, personal communication, May 10, 2016). Dr. Jackson
further estimates that 95 percent of incoming EWC students may not necessarily be college
ready based on the College Boards report of ACT test scores (personal communication, May
10, 2016). To support students, EWC maintains a small class size and emphasizes strong
relationships between faculty, staff, and students. In addition, they offer academic support
programs such as the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) which offers
academic advising and educational planning and Focused Academics Motivating Excellence
(FAME) which offers tutoring in reading, writing, and mathematics (Edward Waters College,
2014). Many students transfer out after raising their GPA high enough to go to another state
institution.

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Students who currently attend Edward Waters College chose the institution for the small
campus and class size, religious affiliation, affordability, and relatives and friends who have been
to the institution and share common values (E. Jackson, personal communication, May 10,
2016). The majority of EWC students (38 percent) enter as anundecided major (Edward Waters
College, 2013). As a liberal arts institution, EWC offers students time to explore various majors
through an array of courses. In addition, the CETL and Career services provide opportunities for
introspection and exploration in order for students to create goals and educational plans towards
graduation.

International Institutions
In order to gain a broader context in our understanding of students reasons for pursuing
postsecondary education, our group met faculty and staff members from four universities:
London Metropolitan University, University College London, University of Reading, and Oxford
University. Additionally, we spoke with students and staff from Leighton Park School and
Foundation for International Education.
Before discussing the institutions recruitment and support practices, it is important to
understand the current educational climate in the United Kingdom. Tuition and fees are capped at
9,000 total, which is the rate all universities currently charge students regardless of selectivity
(P. Gentle, personal communication, May 16, 2016). There is a new emphasis on numbers and
performance metrics used to provide transparency for students and stakeholders, as evidenced by
a white paper released by the Department for Business Innovation & Skills on Wednesday, May
18th, 2016. This model parallels the United States educational model in many ways, including
ongoing assessment and a modified version of performance-based funding.

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This shift in beliefs of the purpose and benefits of college has trickled down to students
and university employees as well. The former conception of university that resembled,
obviously Im gonna go to Uni just cause thats what everyone does, is gradually shifting to a
more critical viewpoint focused on maximizing return on investment, which is evidenced by
scientific or pre-professional majors often being more popular than more abstract or liberal arts
majors (S. Tuhey, personal communication, May 19, 2016). Essentially, university is seen more
as a private good that should reward an individuals investment of time and money.
In speaking to two sixth-form students at Leighton Park school, we were able to see this
trend firsthand. Both students mentioned an expectation to meet or exceed their familys current
financial standard of living and believed university to be an investment required to reach that
goal. We also found that location of a university played a significant role in students reasons for
choosing one over the other: both Leighton Park students as well as one current student at
University of Reading mentioned proximity to home as a primary motivating factor, either to
remain close or move farther away from home.

Recruitment Practices
The first university we visited, London Metropolitan University, presented extensively on
the types of student services they offer their students. These services, split into Advice and Wellbeing and Careers and Employability departments, are used to present London Metropolitan
University as a sort of one-stop-shop for students in order to best recruit them. Sarah Jones,
Career Information Coordinator, mentioned that this focus on promoting student services
represents a shift to a more competitive mentality among universities as they compete for
students and tuition dollars.

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Multiple institutions mentioned more deliberate targeting of students for admission in


recent years. At the University of Reading, recruitment was initially based on partnerships, but
they have recently been changing their tactics by targeting specific locations from which students
have been applying despite lack of recruitment based on perceived interest. Oxford University
also has a policy that requires them to interview any student who has three admission
characteristic flags, on their application, with flags ranging from attending a state school,
coming from a low-income family, or being the first in their family to attend college. University
College Londons Widening Participation program also targets students in years 7-13 as well as
adult learners who would otherwise be unlikely to attend university based on socioeconomic
status.

Admitted Students
Once students are admitted, a number of student services offices collaborate to encourage
student persistence. As previously mentioned, London Metropolitan University spoke in-depth
about their services including the Advice and Well-being offices disability resources,
counseling, and accommodation as well as the Careers and Employability departments career
guidance and internship placement services.
The most significant difference between the United States and the UKs higher
education system, however, is the frequency and ease with which students change their majors.
While many American students enter college unsure of exactly what they want to study or why
they are in school, UK students apply directly to majors and face a cumbersome process for
changing majors that often includes dropping out and re-applying altogether. The benefit of this
mentality is that students often graduate at higher rates and in less time than American students,

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while the drawbacks are in students limited capacity to develop and change their educational
goals during college.

Recommendations for Future Practice


It is evident that every institution we visited demonstrated a unique set of practices
geared toward identifying and supporting the reasons as to why a student attends college or
university. Because every institution is different, there is no perfect template for the ideal
admissions and advising processes; however, our group wishes to convey practices that can add
to, or enhance, current institutional practices. Some institutions appeared to have bolstered
components of student support with students reasons for attending college in mind. Yet, those
same institutions may fall short in different areas.
We encourage all recruitment counselors to first understand why students are attending
their postsecondary institution. This is crucial because an admissions officer can determine if the
school is a good fit for the prospective student. Furthermore, an admissions officer must
understand the students reasons for attending the postsecondary institutions so that he or she can
ensure that, if admitted, the student will be connected to the best possible services of support.
Florida State College at Jacksonville is an excellent model of the proposed practice above.
Before the orientation process begins, Florida State College at Jacksonville has a number
of conversations with the students to illustrate the picture of their career aspirations and how
Florida State College at Jacksonville fits into that illustration. Furthermore, Florida State College
at Jacksonville conducts recruitment presentations for prospective college students before they
begin applying to postsecondary institutions. There are two important pieces to know about these
recruitment presentations. First, the presentations are not Florida State College at Jacksonville

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specific. These presentations probe prospective students to think about what college offers, how
they can make the most of their time at school, and why students should invest in higher
education. Second, these presentations help both students and recruiters get a feel for why
students are attending college. Any uncertainties in the motivations behind students are reduced,
therefore helping administrators connect them with the best advising support.
While Florida State College at Jacksonville offers a very informative and thoughtprovoking recruitment experience, other institutions, such as Flagler College and Jacksonville
University, offer a more individualized, more personalized, application experience. When
students are having issues with the technical details of the application, both institutions discussed
the live support offered to troubleshoot the problem. Furthermore, both institutions made note
that there is a great deal of emphasis on the personal components of the prospective students
application, such as the short essays or personal statement. These two small, private institutions
have the ability to offer a more personalized admissions process because the scale of the
recruiting class is smaller than that of larger institutions.
Larger institutions are not excused from setting up systems and structures to increase the
individualized admissions process. Higher education recruiters should consider creating a more
transformational recruitment process; the prospective students decision to attend college is more
than a simple business transaction. The student makes a two or four-year investment when
enrolling in college, and the postsecondary institutions should reciprocate that investment before
the student is fully matriculated. As previously mentioned, self-determination theory states that
students who are intrinsically motivated are more conducive learners than those who are
extrinsically motivated. Understanding this, advisors who individualise their interactions with

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students, obtain a better understanding of the students motivations and can use this knowledge
as basis for advising towards success.
In contrast to the Florida institutions, the international institutions visited take a more
business-minded approach to recruitment and admissions processes and streamline many of their
applications processes through a central system. The culture of the UK education system
supports this process by addressing student interests early in students academic careers. The
U.S. higher education system may benefit from promoting this culture by supporting secondary
schools in addressing college and goals.
No matter the country the institution resides in, additional personalized recruitment
practices would create a more positive, transformative, and valuable application process.
Postsecondary institutions can work to personalize their application processes through means of
placing greater value on personal writing samples to the student support when troubleshooting
application problems.
Once a student is fully matriculated into the postsecondary institution, it is crucial to
retain the reasons as to why the student is at a higher education institution in the first place.
Student Affairs professionals can receive this information through strategically timed
checkpoints throughout the students academic career. The checkpoints would offer support staff
the opportunity to engage in conversation about the trajectory of the student in terms of his or her
career aspirations. These checkpoints will also allow university advising services to help students
reevaluate current goals and set new goals that will better align with the projected career path.
These advising checkpoint need to be honest conversations. While the selected program of study
is the decision of the student, it is the duty of the university advisors to foster valuable
conversations about realistic goals versus unrealistic and unachieved expectations.

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