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California Community College Student Outcomes Abroad Research Project


College Student Engagement and Success

College student success has been argued to be a product of their participation in meaningful social and academic activities. Literature on college student engagement has underscored the connection between the degree to which students are integrated members of their campus community and the extent to which they are successful. As the literature has suggested that the amount of effort and level of involvement college students put into their education are vital to the potential impact that college can have on them, colleges and universities should re-evaluate how they can provide students with curricular and co-curricular activities that more effectively promote their engagement.

George D. Kuh has argued that some college programs and activities are especially effective in increasing college student engagement. These programs share the following characteristics:

Increasing College Student Engagement
  • Deepened commitment through purposeful tasks
  • Extended and substantive interactions with faculty and peers
  • Interactions with people who are different than themselves
  • Frequent feedback to student performance
  • Apply what students learn in different settings
  • Life changing experiences

Higher education personnel would be wise to determine the extent to which the activities they encourage their students to participate in possess these traits of educational effectiveness. This evaluation can facilitate the enhancement of existing student curricular and co-curricular activities to better promote student engagement.

Kuh has identified specific practices known to increase college student engagement:

High Impact Educational Experiences
  • First-year seminars and experiences: Students engage in critical inquiry, frequent writing, information literacy, collaborative learning, and others activities that develop intellectual and practical abilities
  • Common intellectual experiences: Students engage in curricular and co-curricular activities that address broad themes
  • Learning communities: Students engage in linked courses as a group and work closely with one another and their professors
  • Writing intensive courses: Students engage in writing at all levels of instruction and across the curriculum
  • Collaborative assignments and projects: Students engage in working with and solving problems with others, and listening to others to enhance one's own understanding
  • Undergraduate research: Students in all disciplines engage in research experiences
  • Diversity/global learning: Students engage in courses and programs that explore cultures, life experiences, and worldviews different from their own
  • Service learning/community-based learning: Students engage in experiences with issues they are studying in the curriculum, and in ongoing efforts to solve community issues
  • Internships: Students engage in experiences in a work setting to provide them with professional supervision and coaching
  • Capstone courses and projects: Students engage in a project that integrates and applies what they have learned

While higher education institutions are limited in the resources they can allocate to efforts to promote student engagement, increasing the engagement of their students can increase the odds that students reach their educational and personal goals, and ultimately earn their undergraduate degrees. Therefore, it is vital that institutions provide opportunities for more of their students to participate in these high-impact educational experiences.


  1. Kuh, G. D. (2008). High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter. Washington, DC: American Association of Colleges and Universities.