Homesickness in First-Year Students: Impact on Student Retention

This research note focuses on the responses of students associated with homesickness, comparing the responses of 118,000 first-year students from the 2013 Mapworks Fall Transition survey, which was administered during the first few weeks of the term. Homesickness can be broken down into two factors, separation and distress. Separation is the extent to which one misses families and friends, and is negatively impacted by the psychological or physical distance created by a transition. Distress occurs when one regrets a decision or transition. Of the students who responded to the survey, 20% reported a high impact of separation on their college experience and only 4% reported a high impact of distress on their college experience. This implies that separation is a much more common experience than distress. In addition, distress was more predictable, and was associated with more negative outcomes, than was separation.

College students’ first year experiences also had a large impact on distress. Students with higher distress were more likely to have taken at least three remedial credits than other students, and were less likely to have high intent to return for both the spring semester and the next fall semester. Students with low levels of distress were more likely to self-report higher process skills and basic academic skills than other students. They were also more likely to have more social and financial resources than other students. High distress was also related to both lower fall semester GPA and lower spring retention.

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