Using Your BCSSE Data
Creating conditions at institutions to foster student success has never been more important. Working toward this goal, many institutions seek to better understand their incoming first-year students. The Beginning College Survey of Student Engagement (BCSSE) annually collects data about students' high school experiences and their expectations for the upcoming first college year from tens of thousands of first-time college students prior to their enrollment at four-year institutions in the U.S. and Canada. Institutions that participate in both the BCSSE and NSSE surveys in the same academic year receive a BCSSE—NSSE Combined Report providing in-depth cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses of their first-year students' experiences.
Many possible uses of BCSSE data are available to participating institutions, including those described in the stories below.
First-Year Advising and Retention
Auburn University has been using BCSSE data to predict students at risk of low first fall semester GPAs and dropout. Auburn employs an interactive tool that shows, along with other student characteristics, students' BCSSE results and predicted Fall I GPA and retention to the second year. The tool also can be used to manipulate student responses to BCSSE to better understand the effect of these responses on student outcomes—specifically, GPA and retention. Interestingly, students' confidence in their ability to study when there are other interesting things to do and to finish something they have started are positively associated with predicted GPA, while confidence in the ability to stay positive in the event of poor test performance is negatively associated with predicted GPA. The particular strength of Auburn's interactive tool is that it provides advisers with better understanding of specific triggers that put students at risk. With this understanding, advisers can contact at-risk students early in the fall semester and work individually with each of them to increase their odds of success. Click here to view a description of the Auburn advising tool.
First-Year Advising, Intervention, and Campus Awareness
Avila University puts its BCSSE data to good use in ways that reach across the university community. Academic advisors and instructors of the First-Year Seminar (FS 101) receive the BCSSE Student Advising Report and are encouraged to use it to gain insight into their students' preparations for and expectations of college. In one-on-one meetings with each first-year student, the FS 101 instructor reviews the report, discusses areas of concern and success, and provides the student with appropriate campus resources. Feedback regarding the usefulness of the report is solicited from advisors and instructors, as illustrated in this sample feedback form. Additionally, to increase campus wide understanding of the characteristics of Avila's first-year class, the Coordinator of Retention and the First-Year Experience presents to faculty and staff highlights of some of the most compelling and useful information in the BCSSE institutional report. Here is an example of the 2014 presentation.
Missouri State University
Missouri State puts their BCSSE Advising Reports to good use—having made them integral to their Student Orientation, Advisement, and Registration orientation (SOAR) program. In addition, the university's advisors developed useful questions, "Conversation Catalysts," to guide academic advising. Information about how Missouri State is using BCSSE data for first-year advising can be found here: http://www.missouristate.edu/assessment/evidence.htm
Montana State University
First-Year Advising and Intervention
The staff at Montana State's Allen Yarnell Center for Student Success use their BCSSE Advising Reports to determine which first-year students are at risk for early departure. By coupling BCSSE data with the university's ChampChange program, Montana State has been successful in reaching its retention targets. How they achieved this success was presented at the 2015 Annual Conference on the First-Year Experience in Dallas. Details about ChampChange can be viewed here: http://champchange.msu.montana.edu/
Salve Regina University
Faculty Development, Advising, and Institutional Research
Salve Regina's first BCSSE administration, facilitated and implemented by the university's Center for Student Development, was to a cohort of entering students at their New Student Orientation in June prior to the 2013–2014 academic year. Since then, Salve Regina has found multiple productive uses for its BCSSE data. First, at the faculty assembly for the new academic year, Class deans have presented their cohort's profile based on the BCSSE institutional report. Second, BCSSE Student Advising Reports are shared among the director of academic advising and students' faculty advisors and also among the staff or faculty who teach the students' first-year transitions course and serve as their mentor/coach during the first semester of college. Third, under the direction of the Center for Student Development, the BCSSE data on "Expected Transition Difficulty"—particularly responses to "making new friends"—are used to help identify students who may need additional support and mentoring, whether through the First-Year Transitions course, the Seahawk to Seahawk Mentoring Program (Office of Multicultural Affairs), or other avenues of support for student engagement. Finally, the Office of Institutional Research has used BCSSE results to run regressions with retention data to inform the university's retention initiatives. More information about the Center for Student Development’s programs for first-year students can be found here.
Southern Connecticut State University
Student Advising and Faculty Development
Based on data from NSSE, Southern Connecticut State University identified specific problem areas in their advising activities. As a result, all First-Year Experience Inquiry faculty members at Southern now receive the BCSSE Advising Report for each of their students prior to the beginning of the academic year. Because its FYE is designed to keep students and their faculty-advisers together for the entire first semester, Southern's FYE environment facilitates and encourages stronger student-faculty relationships in which students view faculty as a resource for advice and academic guidance.
One specific example of how this works is the university's First-Generation Student Living-Learning Community. A high proportion of students who come to Southern are first-generation in college. To respond to this reality, in 2014, the university created a First-Generation Student Living-Learning Community. Almost all of the faculty, administrators, staff, and student leaders involved in teaching, mentoring, and overseeing the students in this Living-Learning (L-L) Community are themselves first in their families to graduate from college. To assess this new program's effect, the academic progress of students identified by BCSSE as first-generation who were participants in the L-L Community was compared to that of first-generation students who were not participants. Both 2014 and 2015 first-generation L-L Community students had higher retention rates than did their non-L-L Community counterparts. After two years with the program in place at Southern, 91.1% of the L-L Community students are still enrolled full-time or part-time at the university in comparison to 78.7% of other first-generation students on campus. More information about the First-Generation Student Living-Learning Community can be found here
University of Louisville
The BCSSE has become an important resource for faculty, advisors, and student affairs professionals at the University of Louisville (UofL) to help inform decision-making. With a commitment to administer the BCSSE to every incoming first-year student cohort at summer orientation, UofL continues to integrate the BCSSE Reports and Advising Reports in meaningful ways to support student success: individualized BCSSE reports are shared with the academic units to help faculty get a sense for their incoming students, and presentations of data (along with NSSE data) are shared with the Faculty Senate; Advising Reports are loaded into GradesFirst, UofL’s web-based advising system for Academic Advisors to have ready access for appointments; reports are shared with REACH, our academic support services office to inform program needs; and we’re in the beginning stages of working with the advisors to include hands-on work by student with their individual reports during their “intro to college” course.