First-Year Seminar Associations With Student Success

The January 2018 report explores the associations between participating in a first-year (FY) seminar and various measures of student success in the context of proposing a university-wide seminar requirement. This report also explores these associations excluding Key and Honor’s students. These two groups of students are about 50% of seminar students and are very different from the overall population in terms of their academic preparation levels (Honors) as well as co-curricular support structures (Key).

The analysis focuses on first-time, full-time (FTFT) students from the FA09 through FA16 cohorts and measures student success across four metrics: persistence, graduation, CSU cumulative GPA, and CSU credit accrual. About 30% of FTFT cohorts take a first-year seminar.

Overall, seminar participation is associated with higher levels of student success, but the magnitude of the association is much smaller if programs with extensive co-curricular components as well as a seminar requirement (i.e. Key and Honors) are excluded from the analysis. First-year seminar participation (excluding Key and Honors) is associated with about a 1 percentage point (PP) increase in 2nd fall retention and about 1 PP increases in five- and six-year graduation rates.

However, the magnitude of these increases are smaller for students with gap attributes (e.g., first generation, racially minoritized, or Pell recipient). These results suggest that a seminar requirement would not necessarily decrease gaps in success for first generation, racially minoritized or Pell grant recipient students, but might positively influence persistence and graduation rates overall.