Investigating the relationship of an early semester intervention program and first year college student sense of belonging
Wilson, Chelsey Jo
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Approximately seventy five percent of first year college students are retained their second year (NSC Research Center, 2020). Students leave college for a variety of reasons: they may experience financial difficulties, have family obligations, trouble seeking a support community in school, experience academic adjustment issues, lack of student involvement, and poor institutional fit (Tinto, 2001). Students stay in college when they find a sense of place or community. Researchers (Astin, 1984; Beil, Reisen, Zea, & Caplan, 1999; Cadet, 2008; Milem & Berger, 1997; Strayhorn, 2012) have presented evidence that student involvement in campus activities, both social and academic, are strongly related to student sense of belonging and retention. Strayhorn (2012) states that educators must create conditions that foster belonging among students. This quantitative study examined an early semester intervention program designed to welcome first year students to their college community through involvement and connection. A self-report online survey was utilized to assess level of participation in the week of welcome program and feelings of belongingness. The respondent pool consisted of 625 first-time, full-time students at one large, public institution in the northwest. Correlation Analysis, Linear Regression, Independent Sample T-Tests, One-Way Analysis of Variance, Ordinarily Least Square Regressions, and Paired Sample T-Tests were used to examine and determine the relationships between independent and dependent variables. Level of participation in a week of welcome program has a statistically significant positive relationship with first year college student sense of belonging. Living status was the only student background characteristic that had a relationship with level of participation in the week of welcome program. Students who lived on campus participated in welcome week activities at a higher rate than students who lived off campus. Both planned and actual level of participation in a week of welcome program had a statistically significant positive relationship with student sense of belonging, even when accounting for student background characteristics and desired sense of belonging. Last, desired sense of belonging and actual sense of belonging had a positive relationship, even when controlling for student background characteristics. Based on the findings, recommendations for higher education administrators, practitioners, and institutions are discussed.