Should they stay or should they go? An analysis of appeal statements of academically dismissed university students
Saunders, Kara C.
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The purpose of this study was to gain additional insight into students' explanations for academic difficulty and their hopes for recovery from their academic troubles. A content analysis was performed using 139 dismissal appeal statements of students at a large, public research university. Numerous themes were present in these statements, including academic, familial, social, financial, personal, and other external factors, as well as perceptions of university services, descriptions of students' reactions to their dismissal, and additional justifications for their return to the institution. Differences based on demographic variables of age, race, and gender were present, as were differences between themes in appeal statements of students who went on to be academically successful in the semesters following their appeals and those who did not. Overarching themes also emerged, including the importance of student reactions to their circumstances, students' need for guidance from university faculty and staff, the complexity of the factors that influence student success, and potential differences between voluntary and involuntary withdrawal. The findings of this study have implications for higher education professionals, including institutional and public policy makers, student support professionals, and those serving on reentry committees. This study revealed a number of areas where future research on students in academic difficulty, as well as the student body as a whole, can contribute to our understanding of student success and retention, including more in-depth study of the transition to the college environment, social integration, academic integration, and external and personal factors.