One way in which colleges can improve both the academic performance and retention of first-year students is by increasing their utilization of campus support services, because research clearly suggests that there is a positive relationship between utilization of campus-support services and persistence to program or degree completion (Churchill & Iwai, 1981; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991). In particular, students who seek and receive academic support have been found to improve both their academic performance and their academic self-efficacy—that is, they develop a greater sense of self-perceived control of academic outcomes, and develop higher self-expectations for future academic success (Smith, Walter, & Hoey, 1992). Higher levels of self-efficacy, in turn, have been found to correlate positively with college students’ academic performance and persistence; this is true for Hispanic students in particular (Solberg, O’Brien, Villareal, & Davis, 1993) and underprepared students in general (Lent, Brown, & Larkin, 1987).
Unfortunately, it has also been found that college students under-utilize academic support services (Friedlander, 1980; Walter & Smith, 1990), especially those students who are in most need of support (Knapp & Karabenick, 1988; Abrams & Jernigan, 1984). At-risk students, in particular, have trouble recognizing that they are experiencing academic difficulty and are often reluctant to seek help even if they do recognize their difficulty (Levin & Levin, 1991). These findings are especially disturbing when viewed in light of meta-analysis research, which reveals that academic-support programs designed for underprepared students exert a statistically significant effect on their retention and grades when they are utilized, especially if these services are utilized by students during their freshman year (Kulik, Kulik, & Shwalb, 1983).
Taken together, the foregoing set of findings strongly suggests that institutions should deliver academic support intrusively—by initiating contact with students and aggressively bringing support services to them, rather than offering services passively and hoping that students will come and take advantage of them on their own accord. Academic advisors are in the ideal position to “intrusively” connect students with academic support professionals, who can provide students with timely assistance before their academic performance and persistence are adversely affected by ineffective learning strategies.