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New Student Survey Responses Linked to Persistence

March 11, 2016

In Fall 2014, 35 percent of first-year students completed the New Student Survey (NSS), which requested information about their educational plans, academic habits, academic obstacles and use of campus services.

In a previous report, Institutional Research and Decision Support (IRDS) combined NSS responses with students’ background factors (e.g., high school GPA, SAT scores, first-generation status) and midterm grades to determine the best predictors of student GPAs at the end of their first semester and predict whether they would return to campus the following spring semester.

IRDS has completed a follow-up report that examines which student background factors, academic achievement factors (i.e., first term midterm performance; end of first term GPA) and NSS responses are the best predictors of whether students returned to campus the following fall semester, their third term. 

Here are the key findings:

  • Students with higher first-term GPAs were more likely to return for a third term.
  • Students with uncertainty about their degree objectives were less likely to return for a third term.
  • Students who said they had plans to leave UC Merced were less likely to return for a third term.

Summary of Results

  • After accounting for student background factors, knowing which students earned poor GPAs in their first terms at UC Merced, had uncertainty about what degrees they were ultimately pursuing and/or planned to leave UC Merced enabled the prediction of persistence into the third term. In fact, these three predictors accounted for 33 percent of the variance in the outcome of third-term persistence.

  • From the previous report on second-term persistence, most of the factors that predicted second-term persistence — high school GPA, having received a D or F on a midterm in the first term, academic self-efficacy and engagement in extracurricular activities — no longer predicted third-term persistence, and appear to be better predictors of second-term persistence. However, both academic performance factors (e.g., GPA) and plans to leave UC Merced were clear and robust predictors of both second- and third-term persistence.

  • These analyses have an important limitation: Only 35 percent of new freshmen responded to the NSS. While the sample tended to be demographically representative (e.g., first-generation status, race), females and high-achieving students were more likely to complete the survey, which suggests that the results may best apply to these groups. Future analyses are planned to determine whether this pattern of findings also applies to students who completed the NSS in the fall of the 2015-16 academic year.

View the full New Student Survey report.