Delivering 1st Year Success – it really matters!

Posted: 02/12/2022
by: Ian Thomson

For all new students – be they school leavers, adults returning to study, or those mixing part-time study with work – the first 12 months in higher education is a rollercoaster of emotions, achievements, and failures.  Our own work with many Australian universities, together with government data, shows just how leaky the new student bucket has become as a result of this emotional rollercoaster.

Delivering 1st year success 2

For every 100 students who were motivated by your marketing and outreach activities to start a direct to campus application, only 10% are still with you a year later. And the loss is at every point in the pipeline.

The student journey mapping we have completed with many clients show those students who are on an emotional high at the point of receiving an offer, but those who successfully navigate the process to complete their first enrolment are at their lowest emotional state at this point. It should be no surprise that many don’t turn up or are so stressed that their performance suffers.

The struggle from orientation to the start of study and then to census date should not be a surprise to anyone. In a traditional Semester teaching model, the time a student has to determine “is this for me?” can be as long as 6 weeks, but as many universities change their teaching terms, this decision point can be as short as 1 week away. It’s not long to make all the right impressions and to get the student on track for success.

Student University Journey 2







With most universities having dedicated staff support teams, it begs the question, “why are the numbers so bad?”. The answer is simple, although the solution is not. The answer is that most support programs are opt-in (reactive). The students who participate are the ones who either need it the least or the self-reflective ones who see the value. The ones who are most likely to struggle simply don’t participate.

The solution, as I see it, is that pro-active programs are needed that are pushed to every new student. And making a choice to opt-out should be as difficult as it is to get out of a Foxtel contract.

There are 4 critical points where proactive outreach is needed.4 Critical Points 1

As I said, the solutions are complex, but they are scalable and achievable. It requires some investment and maybe a change in approach, but it will pay off. Helping students through the process reduces the leakage from the bucket at every point.

About this process:

Journey Mapping is an wonderful tool to visualise the impacts and determine priorities around student centric university processes. The discussion with stakeholders is valuable in itself and the map serves as a useful communication tool to make positive changes in your team or department.

Student Journey Map simplified

If you want to have a chat about your situation and potential solutions, call 1800 870 677 or email at any time and I am more than happy to discuss what we have learnt and how we can help you.