Student Retention and Academic Performance: Relationship to a Freshman Seminar/Student Success Course

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Studies and Research

First Advisor

Arthur R. Southerland

Advisor Department

Educational Studies and Research


The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between participation in a freshman seminar or student success course and student retention and academic performance. The study was designed to determine whether participation in this course had an independent relationship with the persistence and academic performance of college freshmen. More specifically, this study sought to determine whether course participation was related to the persistence and academic performance of at-risk freshmen. Data for this study were gathered through a computer search of the historical database files at a selected, southeastern comprehensive university covering a four-year period. Two random samples were taken for use in this study, one of the general freshman population and another of the at-risk freshman population. The subjects in these samples were divided into two groups based upon their participation or non-participation in the student success course and were tracked through the first semester of their sophomore year. Results available from the analysis of data indicated significant relationships between participation in the course and retention and academic performance for all freshmen, whether they were considered to be at-risk or not. Course participants were retained and performed at significantly higher rates than non-participants, even though they typically entered the university with lower measures of pre-college academic ability and were more likely to have undeclared majors than their counterparts. Of the at-risk students, nearly four out of five who participated in the course were still enrolled in college one year after their initial freshman semester.