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Holiday Retention

What are some creative retention ideas to do to ensure students don't drop out during the holiday break?

My Team has decided to have a Holiday Party for the students two days before classes start back.

Any ideas....I¡¦m all earsƒº

Hi Bernadette,
Anything you can do to get the students involved and invested(personally) in the school process is a good idea. The party sounds like a good idea.
I have assigned students “homework” to do over the Holidays. This homework is in the form of a scavenger hunt or a treasure hunt. The things they are to get or to search for are related to their field. The hunt doesn't take much time, since everyone is so busy during the Holidays. The point of this is to keep the students thinking, even a little, about school and their program. There are prizes and recognition when classes resume.
Also, I have had the class do a special project that helps others. Clothing drive, canned goods, turkeys, etc., anything to get them involved in helping, but always connected to school. Emotionally the students separate from school, especially if they are on the bubble of dropping out anyway, if there is lapse in time, like the Holidays. When I have used the special class project, I then give the students a call sometime during the Holiday break to report on how we have done and to see how their holiday is coming. I know this takes some time as we are busy ourselves during this season but it sure makes a difference in keeping the students connected with me and the school.
Bottom line, they need to know that someone cares about their success and that someone is you and you are not going to forget them.
Hope this helps.

Another possibility is to complete a certain amount of the course work before the Holiday so that students have less to wory about while they are gone. Then they can hopefully look forward to starting new and different material when they return.

Hi Matthew,
Good suggestion about lowering the tension for students before school breaks. Anything an instructor can do will help. Another thing I have found effective in keeping the students engaged is to have a project that bridges from before to after the break. Some type of connection that will keep the students thinking about coming back after the break. These projects and/or activities are low pressure, in fact I try and make them fun for the students but with application to their field.

Well this is something we've implemented year round that may help. We noticed that forty percent of our withdrawals were in the second term. A student's assigned mentor will now follow and meet with students during the second term as well as the first term. We are hopeful this increased contact will reduce student withdrawals.

My team sent Holiday Cards to all students with reminder about when classes resume as well as their final schedule.

Hi Cindy,
Good suggestion. It is one that I follow all the time. Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up. The personal touch is always appreciated, even though the student may still leave the college, they have a good feeling about how they were treated. This may help them to come back at a future date.

Hi Karen,
You can never go wrong with the personal touch. The students need to feel that the college and you care. This will go a long ways in terms of keeping them enrolled. Even if they do leave they will have a positive feeling about the college and yourself and they feeling may help to bring them back at a future date.

It really depends on where the students are in their education. For more senior students, a test that cannot be made up on the first day after the holiday can work. For students early in their education a more subtle approach can be more successful, such announcing a really valuable guest speaker when they return, someone who they do not want to miss...


Hi Jim,
You have captured the key to working with students. You must have a set of polices that you follow, but each students requires some thought as to how best you can handle their situation.
You are on the right track with your comments.


Hi Gordon,
Good plan. We all like to get the tough stuff out of the way so we can relax. Summers are another tough time for my students. Living in a climate where there are 4 seasons I think we value nice days even more than those folks that live in warm climates. Right now the days of June are perfect and the students would rather be outside playing instead of inside studying. I have found that I have to work extra hard to keep them engaged in the learning process.

My classes tends to take a few sessions (after the Holiday) to get back into full swing, due to attendance issue.

We have students register for classes for the upcoming semster before they depart on break.
They have a copy of their schedule and can anticipate the upcoming semester.

During the long Christmas break we send all currently ebrolled students a X mas card with the standard holiday greeting and a see you back in class on January 7!

This helps but there always seems to be some Christmas casualties. We also now have instructors e-mail students and talk about the upcoming classes and what they will be learning.

Hi Jon,
You all are using good approaches and striving to keep your students engaged. The facts are that about 10% of the students will not come back after a break, due to a variety of reasons. The majority of these reasons are out of the control of the college and not matter what approach you use they will not return. The key to these non-returning students is for them to have a postive impression about their last contact with the college. I have found that months, maybe years later they will see a need for returning to school and their positives experiences with your college(instructors) brings them to your door.

I would think that having students complete a project before a holiday break would let them have the "fun time" they need to relax and play during their time off. Also, this gives them the rest they need and will hopefully encourage them to want to come back to a fresh topic of discussion. I would also align a fun project for after the break, therefore the students will want to come back.

Hi Kristin,
I think your timing is good. They get to finish the big project, rest up and then have a fun activity as they get settled back in after the holiday season. Thanks for sharing these strategies.

Hello Dr. Meers,

All of the suggestions and tips in this forum sound great, but what if your college is on a five week term schedule and the holiday falls during the summer or some other time than Christmas?

One of the most difficult challenges I face are the summer sessions. Since I mostly teach working adults, most of their children are out of school for the summer and this causes huge headaches for their parents (my students). Any advice? Thanks, Elisabeth

Hi Elisabeth,
Will be glad to answer your question if you can give me a little more information about the issues surrounding summer holidays. Also, are these issues of being absent, child care or dropping out?

Hello Dr. Meers,

The issues regard family vacations, lack of summer child care which ultimately results in a higher absentee rate. I really have not experienced a rise in drop outs due to this, but the summers are certainly my most challenging times. Thanks, Elisabeth

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