Universities need to implement graduate student retention strategies to sustain a healthy student flow. These strategies are relevant, even if you happen to be the easiest Ivy League school to gain admission to. As a graduate school, you need to do everything to ensure the continuity of your institution by reinforcing your graduate school retention. You need to not only work on advising students how to get into grad school but also focus on how to retain and graduate your students by using out-of-the-box strategies that include promising to help them with their future Ph.D. admissions, fellowships, and employment prospects.

Note: If you are a university, business, or student organization representative and want to partner with us, visit our partnerships page.

Article Contents
4 min read

Why Do Retention Rates Matter? What are the Graduate Dropout Rates in the US and Canada? What are the Reasons for Dropping Out? Two Things to Consider for Graduate Student Retention Rates What are Graduate Student Retention Strategies? Conclusion FAQs

Why Do Retention Rates Matter?

Well, as an academic institution your retention rate is probably one of the most important figures you need to keep an eye on.

The percentage of graduates determines how successful you are as an institution. A high percentage, which should always be your target, is a sign that you are good at what you do and that students want to be a part of your school and programs.

This reputation of reliability results in good standings in the academic world as well as being sought-after by more candidates and applicants. It goes on to mean that you have a healthy budget and a high-profit margin. It also makes your institution a good choice for investments, bursaries, and funding.

Overall, high retention rates boost your stand in the education industry – and the better your performance, the higher your prestige.

Remember: your institution's reputation is the key to recruiting the best students and staff, as well as increasingly making partnerships, securing funding, and engaging with key stakeholders.

It is also the key to improving your ranking which is affected by these very factors – the better retention, faculty, and graduates you have , the better your rank becomes.

You can take advantage of opportunities offered through university partnerships with BeMo's university student benefits program. We offer unlimited graduate school admissions consulting services, academic support and career coaching to students, saving our educational partners money and increasing their retention rates. With BeMo, students receive the support they need and universities benefit from higher student satisfaction.

What are the Graduate Dropout Rates in the US and Canada?

According to the numbers, we find that:

  1. Statistics show that the number of graduates in the advanced degree programs hovers around 50%
  2. There is a low dropout rate in the medical programs – 81.6 to 84.3% of four-year and 95.9% of six-year medical programs graduate.
  3. In the US, in recent years, the number of people aged 25 and over whose highest degree was a master’s degree rose to 24.1 million, and the number of doctoral degree holders rose to 4.7 million, a 50.2% and 54.5% increase, respectively.
  4. About 14.3% of US adults had an advanced degree in most recent years, up from 10.9% a decade ago.

These low figures and percentages indicate there is a large market that you can tap into. If you work on your graduate student retention strategies, you can increase your share of what can endless source of eligible candidates.

What are the Reasons for Dropping Out?

Some reasons graduate students drop out of school include:

Whatever the cause may be, you should be concerned that many students quit their education at your school and start thinking about graduate student retention strategies you need to adopt to reduce and curb this trend in your institution.

Two Things to Consider for Graduate Student Retention Rates

Before we go into the actual strategies to adopt we need to consider two things:

#1: Know where you stand

Before you can proceed with resolving a problem, you need to know the extent of the problem. In this case, you need to have data on hand about how many students are being admitted to your institution and how many of them are graduating in their final years.

The difference between the two figures – admission rates vs. graduation rates for each year – gives you the variance and, depending on the difference, your retention rates.

Once you have the figures in hand, you can figure out where you stand – and in case your graduation rate is low, or lower than you want it to be , you can now start planning for a resolution.

#2: Don’t forget online students

Right now, online MBA students outnumber regular students – you need to cater to these potential candidates.

Therefore, your remote students too should be considered in the retention rates. Whether you want to tackle the problem as one – with remote and on-campus together – or separately, is up to you.

What are Graduate Student Retention Strategies?

With that out of the way, let us go ahead and have a look at some student retention strategies you can adopt in your university:


Your institution should always monitor its graduate student retention rates and adjust its strategies accordingly. As we have seen, graduate student retention strategies can serve as KPIs to your overall performance – or take a significant share of the overall performance rating – and serve to help you achieve success and higher rankings among competing universities.

Additionally, Ph.D. ’s are highly coveted by both local and international students, which means that there is a very high number of applicants for a limited number of spots available. If you promise to help your candidates get admitted, you can expect a high demand for your courses and education.


1. How important is the graduate retention rate?

Your graduate school retention rate is an important performance indicator that you can use to show your excellence in the education field. You should always strive to achieve a 100% retention rate.

2. How do graduate student strategies help universities?

The closer you get to achieving a 100% retention rate, the better your institution is ranked. The graduate student strategies we have seen help you achieve the 100% rate. You should implement them and monitor them to ensure continuous improvement in your retention rates.

3. Does the overall dropout rate affect graduate strategies?

Yes, it does. The drop in undergraduate graduates will create a drop in the number of applicants to your graduate degree courses. But, you can offset that by recruiting as many candidates as possible to fill all your seats. And that means you need to have a graduate retention strategy that will attract as many candidates as possible.

The good thing is, if your strategies are effective, you will attract the best and brightest graduate applicants.

4. How well do the strategies help the students?

Your graduate retention strategies help new applicants and existing students by creating a conducive environment that helps them flourish and learn while they are with you and even lays a clear path for them to follow once they have left you. It handles students' needs and caters to all their requests from the day they apply to your institution and beyond their graduation dates and well into their career paths.

5. Are the strategies a one-fits-all solution?

No, each university should come up with its own strategy to cater to its own unique student body, curriculum, faculty, and facilities. All these factors contribute to the development of your strategies.

For example, your student demographics, the location of your campus, and your curriculum delivery methods can have unique effects on your student body. You, therefore, need to come up with unique solutions to address them.

6. Are retention strategies a one-time solution?

No, here too you need to create strategies that are as fluid as the candidates and students you are catering to.

What might be feasible one year could become impossible the next. A plausible solution for one demographic might be found ineffective for another. Therefore, you need to take stock regularly and tweak – or even change in entirety – your retention strategies to adapt to new challenges.

7. How difficult is it to get into Ph.D. or postgraduate courses?

You have to remember that these degrees are, in most subjects, the epitomes of degrees. There is therefore fierce competition to get a seat in schools that offer them. And, in most cases, the competition is both on a national and international scale.

Being able to offer help to students who aspire to reach Ph.D. or equivalent degrees will definitely sway the favor your way with new candidates looking for a chance to take their education all the way. Ultimately, this will also result in your rank increasing.

8. What is the scope or range of a graduate student retention strategy?

The scope of your graduate student retention strategy ranges from the first time a candidate reaches out for information on how to apply to your courses or any admissions-related information. Here the marketing and admissions team can work to reel in these potential candidates and convert them into registered students.

Once they have come on board the strategy shifts to making sure they are in a nourishing educational environment. It also gives them an outlet to express their dissatisfaction should there be any issues. This allows the university to make corrections and resolve the situation.

Finally, the category helps students move on to the next phase of their academic and professional careers.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

Want more free tips? Subscribe to our channels for more free and useful content!




Apple Podcasts




Like our blog? Write for us! >>

Have a question? Ask our admissions experts below and we'll answer your questions!