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This customized study will inform your understanding of student retention at your institution and assist you in predicting student retention outcomes. It will help you to understand whether some students are at greater risk for not returning and show you how to calculate and monitor this risk among applicants and enrolled students.

You’ll learn:

  • Which measures are the most useful predictors of retention at your institution.
  • How you might narrow the number of factors you consider without loss of predictive ability.
  • How certain predictors might overlap or co-occur for nonreturning students and can be used to consider student risk for not returning.
  • How to construct the optimal equations for predicting the retention outcomes of future students.
  • Which specific returning students in the data set you supply are at risk for not returning in the future.

Designing Your Study

Get an overview of how to design your study below. For detailed step-by-step instructions, download the ACES Retention Study Guide (.pdf/2.39MB) or see the FAQs at the bottom of this page.

Choosing a Cohort and Retention Outcome

You’ll select a cohort to examine—for example, last year’s admitted class—and a retention outcome. In ACES retention studies, the retention outcome is whether or not the student returned to your institution in a particular academic year/term.

Choosing Predictors

In ACES retention studies, a predictor refers to a data point that you’re using to make your decisions and whose effectiveness you want to analyze. All ACES retention studies analyze SAT score(s) and give you the option to also study high school GPA and college GPA as predictors. You can add up to five additional predictors.

Choosing Additional Subgroups (Optional)

For ACES retention studies, you may request up to three additional subgroups (e.g., college within institution, in-state versus out-of-state) to further analyze your results.

Submitting Your Student Data

Which Students to Include

For a standard retention study, you should include all first-time, first-year students (domestic and international) that entered your institution in the starting academic term of interest. For example, if you're interested in studying second-year retention rates for the fall 2017 entering cohort, you would include all students who began at your institution in fall 2017 and their retention outcome (0, 1) from fall 2018.

Which Data to Include

You'll need to supply identifying information on the students in your sample, as well as retention data (e.g., 0, 1). If you're supplying any additional predictors or subgroups for your study, these will need to be included in your file.

Submitting Your Data File

You'll be prompted to submit a data file when you design a new study.

Your data file must be in one of the following formats in order to successfully upload: Microsoft Excel; Comma Separated Value (CSV); Tab Delimited (.txt); or SAS Transport (XPORT).

Download an Excel template (.xls/13KB) with the correct data layout for the retention validity study.

For detailed information on preparing your data file, see the ACES Data Preparation Guidelines (.pdf/607KB).

College Board Matched Data

After we receive your data file, we will use the personally identifiable information contained in it to find matches to those student records in our College Board ACES database. Then we will combine our data and your data into one file. 

When you receive your ACES retention report, you'll also get what we call a “matched data file”—the complete set of combined data for all the students in your study.

The matched data file is invaluable for future research. It also comes with indicators that show which students are at risk for not returning in the future, so you can target retention efforts.

Getting Your Report

When your study is finished—within 20 business days of your completed request (including a clean data file)—we’ll notify you that your report is available on the ACES website and you can sign in to access it. You will get three deliverables:

  • A complete, printable report in PDF format that shows the strength of your chosen predictors of retention with charts, tables, and detailed explanations.
  • A report in HTML format featuring interactive graphs. You can click to display or hide data, compare data, zoom in and out, take a snapshot, sort table columns, and more. You may want to insert these graphs into campus reports or presentations that you are preparing for various constituents.
  • A matched data file that combines your data with College Board data and includes retention probabilities for the students in your file.

Frequently Asked Questions