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American Today

Student Life

AU MAPs Course to Even Better Retention

By Mike Unger

Anticipating one’s own weaknesses can be tricky.

A new online tool at AU is taking some of the guesswork out of it for its first-year students. The university is offering a survey designed to help those new to campus identify aspects of their collegiate life to which they may need to devote extra attention.

The program, called MAP-Works, Making Achievement Possible, is voluntary and available for free through the AU portal. The goal is to focus students on successful college behavior and identify students who may be at risk in one of three areas:

  • earning the grades you expect
  • connecting with others
  • paying for college

Administrators are hoping the program, a joint venture between Campus Life and Academic Affairs, helps boost retention.

“Generally we’re doing very well first to second year,” said Rob Hradsky, assistant vice president of campus life and dean of students. “Retention was approximately 90 percent for the past academic year. But we’ve also been focusing on ways we could identify key factors that play into student retention.”

MAP-Works does just that. Students answer a series of multiple-choice and free form questions during a 15-minute online survey, then receive an immediate report comparing their results with everyone else’s. For example, if they plan to study five hours a week but the AU norm is 15, they know they’ll need to hit the books harder.

AU officials receive a report in which students are classified as either low risk, moderate, high, or very high. Those in the former two categories use the survey as a self-help tool, but those in the latter two are contacted by support staff, who meet with them to work on their potential problems. If a student is high-risk in paying for college, a financial aid officer will approach them. If they are high-risk in connecting with others, they may be contacted by a residence hall director.

“It allows us to have very focused conversations with students early in the semester when we can still make a difference in terms of helping them develop skills for success,” Hradsky said.

The survey was available from September 19 through October 19. In the first week, about half of AU’s 1,800 freshmen, transfer, and Washington Mentorship Program students took it, Hradsky said.