Effects of self-expectations on the satisfaction and retention of high -achieving college freshmen

Steven Reno DiSalvo, Fordham University


This study used quantitative research methods to explore how expectations impact reasons for leaving college and what can be done to help students adjust their expectations. The research focused on a variety of independent variables that effected the decision to stay, leave, transfer, drop out, or graduate. Academic, social, religious, residential, and economic expectations were analyzed, along with demographic variables and past academic performance in relation to student expectations. As a means to perform the analysis of the effects of expectations on actual college performance, the researcher developed the Student Assessment & Valuation Instrument On Retention (S.A.V.I.O.R.) Survey. The expectations of students at Fairfield University were selected because of the large number of high-achieving students who enroll each year. The S.A.V.I.O.R. Survey was distributed during freshmen orientation to identify students with high academic expectations. The high achievers were tracked during their freshmen year in order to determine if their expectations were being met. A S.A.V.I.O.R. Post-Survey was distributed to those high-achieving students to measure the discrepancy between what they expected and what they actually experienced during their freshman year. An analysis of the effects of each independent variable on each outcome variable was conducted to determine the variance. The strength of the variance led the researcher to conclude which sets of variables best predict whether a student will stay, leave or transfer. High school grade point average, faculty interaction, distance from home, and religious experience each significantly contributed to the desire of freshmen to graduate or recommend the university to others. This study offers practical recommendations to other institutions that lose some of their brightest students after freshman year. Since student expectations are based solely on their limited knowledge of the university and their personal performance in high school, they may not be prepared for issues of transition and the level of competition in college. The S.A.V.I.O.R. Survey also can be adapted to the business environment by analyzing expectations of new employees and comparing those expectations to their job performance. The analysis used the work of Tinto (1993) and Astin (1975) as a basis for exploring the behaviors and outcomes of new students. The focus on leaving college has resided with those students who are at-risk of failing, thereby invoking early intervention programs and close monitoring of their performance. Bright students are often left alone since their high school performance and standardized test scores are typically above the mean for the class. However, bright students will quickly think about leaving the university if they fall far enough below their own expectations.

Subject Area

Higher education

Recommended Citation

DiSalvo, Steven Reno, "Effects of self-expectations on the satisfaction and retention of high -achieving college freshmen" (2002). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3085020.