What is Student Self-Retention and How To Foster It

When students have access to their progress, they're more likely to self-retain.

What is Student Self-Retention and How To Foster It

What is Student Self-Retention and How To Foster It

Student self-retention is the idea that students guide themselves toward graduation with less external intervention. Learn how to foster it. 

90 percent of schools have goals to improve their graduation rates. Unfortunately, only 49 percent have a solid strategy to do so. Those who do have a retention strategy in place plan to upgrade facilities, add more instructors, and expand course offerings—all expensive initiatives. 

Schools invest significant resources and staff time into retaining students, but what if they could retain themselves? 

What is student self-retention?

Self-retention is the idea that students guide themselves to graduation with less external support and intervention. Instead, they look at their progress, consider their goals, and make decisions to help them hit them. 

The idea of student self-retention isn’t to leave students completely hanging. Staff will still offer students counseling and support, but they will function more as guardrails when students cannot get back on track. 

Self-retention frees staff time to focus on the students who need it the most and prepares students for the real world. When students enter the workforce, there will be some buffers to support them—managers, HR, etc.—but the stakes are higher. They need to hold themselves accountable for timeliness and high-quality work. 

It comes full circle to benefit your students and your school. If your school is known for producing responsible, accountable employees, your students are more likely to get hired. 

Fortunately, fostering student self-retention is as easy as equipping them with the right tools and letting them take the reigns. 

How to foster student self-retention

Up until about 10-15 years ago, if you found yourself lost on the way to a new destination, you had two options: 

  • Unfurl a map and figure it out yourself
  • Stop and ask for directions


It’s a system that worked fine for decades, but now there’s a better way. 

Now, you use a GPS to guide yourself to new destinations. If you make a wrong turn, it notifies you, but ultimately it’s up to you to get back on track. 

The same rule applies to students. At many schools, students receive quarterly updates or have to stop and ask for progress updates from instructors. Unfortunately, by that point, they might be miles off track.

Giving students a complete view of their progress in a student portal is like giving them a GPS. They have their path laid out in front of them with the accurate, up-to-date information they need to make smart decisions the moment they make a wrong turn. 

For example, if students miss a few days of class here and there, they probably know they need to catch up, but life happens. They get distracted by other things and forget how many days they’ve missed until they get their progress reports months later. Making up a large portion of missing time all at once can quickly become unmanageable for students and may deter them from continuing toward their goals. 

When they can see their hours, assignments, and progress, in one place, 24/7, with the touch of a button, they don’t have to rely on others to keep them on track. Instead, they become accountable for their educational journey. 

So if that same student who missed a few days here and there can open up an app and see how much makeup time they have, it’s on them to be proactive about making that time up. There’s no room for blame, arguing, or excuses—just like in the working world. 

While you can’t save them all, many students will rise to the occasion and take accountability when given the resources to do so. 

For example, International Salon and Spa Academy use CourseKey’s student-facing app to keep students engaged with their education. They found that students would compare their progress on CourseKey to ensure they would graduate at the same time as their friends. When one student realized they were behind and at risk of not graduating with their friends, they put in the extra hours to graduate on time. 


How CourseKey helps schools foster student self-retention

Expecting students to graduate without giving them a GPS is like expecting them to drive across the country with nothing but a paper map. 

Can it be done? Yes. 

Has it been done? Yes.

But there’s a better way. Giving students a GPS, a complete view of their progress and journey, will help more students reach their goals and ensure fewer get left behind. 

Request a demo to learn more about how CourseKey’s student app helps career education programs foster student self-retention. 

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