Adaptive style, academic self-efficacy and student adaptation to college as predictors of student attrition in higher education

Date of Completion

January 1999


Education, Guidance and Counseling|Education, Higher




Colleges and universities continue to grapple with the problem of reducing the 25% to 50% attrition rate of students who enroll in the first year of college but do not return for a second year. Despite decades of research, educators can only explain limited amounts of the variance associated with attrition. In an attempt to explain more of the variance associated with attrition, this study examined several variables (i.e., adaptive style, academic self-efficacy, help-seeking tendencies, and adaptation to college) that have promise for enriching current theoretical models of student attrition. ^ Data were gathered from a sample of 142 students who were attending a private, four-year college in the northeast. Information was collected early in the academic year (September/October) and again late in the academic year (April/May). Discriminant function analysis and analysis of variance were used to analyze the data. ^ Results indicated that student attachment to the institution and students' perception of their academic performance were the most important variables for explaining the variance associated with persisting or not persisting (16% and 10% respectively). The results also indicated that complex and dynamic relationships among the variables modified students' feelings of attachment continuously during the academic year. The complex and dynamic nature of these relationships helped to explain why, given similar situations, some students persisted yet others did not. Results also indicate that the decision to persist or withdraw is a dynamic process, affected by multiple factors over the full academic year. Finally, the analyses suggest ways that institutions could intervene to limit attrition. ^