Want to Impact Student Retention?—Try a Career Intervention.

Karley Clayton and Jim McAtee

March 1, 2018

At Ball State University, a quantitative study of over 14,000 student records suggested career interventions influence retention and four-year graduation rates.  The KEY (Knowledge+Experience+You) Careers program has influenced student success by encouraging all incoming students to develop their vocational identity during their first year of college. KEY Careers participants’ four-year graduation rates were nearly 15% higher than non-participants and were retained at 86.3% compared to 77.6% for non-participants.  Here are recommendations to implement a successful career intervention for an entire cohort of students:

  1. Customize career intervention curriculum.   Every student is encouraged to take the My Vocational Situation (MVS) assessment to gauge which students have low, moderate, and high levels of vocational identity clarity prior to starting first semester. Based on pre-test scores, students receive varied target developmental programming throughout the academic year.  For example, students with low clarity receive a more guided and intense intervention with a peer mentor and students with high clarity complete online modules and attend workshops to affirm their values, interests, and skills. 
  2. Start first semester.  The greatest opportunity to impact retention and graduation rates is at the beginning of a collegiate career.  KEY Careers programming allows students to intentionally choose or affirm their choice in major and career path, which ultimately impacts motivation to persist.
  3. The sophomore experience matters.  The MVS is re-distributed as a post-test to learn if a student’s vocational identity has increased after engaging with the KEY Careers curriculum.  Students who are still at-risk continue their intervention through their sophomore year with KEY Careers 2.0.

 If you want to learn more about career interventions, attend How Career Interventions for all Incoming First-Year Students Impact Retention and Four-Year Graduation Rates (Program ID: 47902) at NASPA or visit the Ball State Career Center website.

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