15 October 2018 • Tilburg University press briefing
Smelling, seeing and tasting are more decisive factors for students at university of applied sciences than motivation
Around 30 to 40 per cent of first-year students at universities of applied sciences quit during their first year. The main reasons, as reported by the students themselves, are a lack of motivation and having made the wrong study choice. Gaining actual experience – smelling, seeing and tasting their studies and the environment at the university of applied sciences – proves a more decisive factor for a successful start. That is the conclusion in Evelyne Meens’ dissertation.
Prospective and current students at Fontys University of Applied Sciences campuses were asked how they had made their choices and what their motivation was prior to beginning their studies. Meens then further analysed data relating to educational success, such as academic progress and dropout rates, but also including softer aspects, such as satisfaction with study choice, social and academic integration and self-confidence.
It turned out that students who took the time to orient themselves beforehand, and only committed themselves after doing this, were more motivated when first starting out on their degree programme. Students who did not do that began their studies based more on the expectations of other people, or did not even know why they were starting at all. Motivation beforehand proved ultimately to have little influence on educational success after the first year. Many students began their studies with high levels of motivation, but nevertheless dropped out later on when reality did not meet their expectations. It therefore makes little sense to ask about motivation during Study Choice Checks and Matching Days if it is not based on realistic experiences.
It is far better to give an accurate picture of the content and difficulty of the degree programme beforehand, by means of student shadowing and study taster days. Meens also recommends strongly that prospective university of applied sciences students orient themselves so that they get some real experience of what their proposed studies entail, ideally with someone who can help them reflect on that experience.
Guidance and intervention
The students who do not orient themselves effectively should be asked about their initial experiences soon after they begin their studies, and if necessary be given intervention and guidance. This can include questions such as “Do I feel at home here?” and “How motivated am I now that I know the programme, my fellow students and the lecturers a little better?” Meens has developed a “starting thermometer” for just this purpose – an instrument to help first-year students reflect shortly after they begin their studies. You can find further information about this tool here.