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A 2023 Education Data Initiative report reveals that nearly 33% of undergraduates don’t complete their degree program. The report also mentions that college dropouts earn around 35% less than those holding a bachelor’s degree.

A 2021 U.S. Department of Labor report shows a 64% growth in new apprentices in 2012, but even in 2021, the report mentions that those students who exited those programs increased.

Learning how to identify at-risk students early is instrumental in achieving successful enrollment and retention rates. With technological advancements, individualized learning demands, and financial challenges, educational institutions need to learn how to support at-risk students before they drop out of their programs. Here, we’ll explore ways your institution can help students face ongoing challenges so they can thrive academically and professionally.

What Is an At-Risk Student?

An at-risk student performs or is likely to perform poorly in their academics. Compared to their peers, at-risk students fall behind in their courses and may drop out. At-risk students need help to meet or exceed classroom expectations.

What are some of the characteristics of at-risk students? Several behavioral and academic signs might indicate that a student is struggling academically. These include: 

  • Troublesome classroom behavior
  • Lack of communication with peers or professors
  • Refusal to submit assignments
  • High tardiness and absence rates
  • Low classroom participation
  • Lack of self-confidence or low self-worth
  • Low or failing grades

It’s essential to understand that some at-risk signs go beyond the classroom. Personal and social factors can contribute to academic struggles. For example, a student might face financial insecurity due to the high cost of living. The student could also be facing family problems. 

Before learning how to support at-risk students, you must identify those struggling academically.

How to Identify At-Risk Students: 4 Steps

Do you want to learn how to identify at-risk students to improve the quality of your educational program? Take these 4 proactive steps.


1. Examine Attendance Rates

Attendance rates help identify students at an elevated risk of failing academically. Educators should track the students’ current attendance rates and identify which are constantly missing classes, especially before the semester mid-point. The same step applies to tardiness. 

By tracking students, educators can intervene and work with them individually before their lack of attendance becomes a long-term problem. Fortunately, Fame has precisely what instructors need to address attendance challenges. 

Our Student Information Systems software can generate customized reports on student attendance (along with our Student Mobile App and Attendance Tracker), so you know which students actively engage with your program. Request a demo to see how our products can help your school. 

2. Focus on Grades

Grades are one of the most critical signs gauging student success. However, you shouldn’t delay observing grades until the end of the semester; you must assess grades early in a term.

Instructors should look at benchmarks to see when student performance takes a dip. Are there trends in the drops? Maybe a subset of students struggle with some of the most recent in-class assignments and quizzes. Early monitoring of grades allows instructors to modify their teaching style. 

3. Assess Student Behavior

A student’s in-class behavior is a good indicator of how well they’re progressing in their education. Successful students will express enthusiasm and joy about their future. However, at-risk students who struggle might show clear signs of frustration, anger, anxiety, and hopelessness.

Identifying students whose behavior indicates a lack of academic progress allows your institution to use that information to improve outreach to struggling students.

4. Identify Signs of Financial Stress

Approximately 92% of Gen Z students are concerned they won’t have sufficient funds to cover the fall term. While financial stress may be challenging to identify, it isn’t impossible. An administrator can identify warning signs that indicate a student is experiencing financial distress. These include: 

  • Incomplete FAFSA applications
  • Overdue tuition fees
  • Inability to cover student kits and fees
  • Low GPA scores


While some financial concerns are beyond the administrators’ control, their early identification can be incredibly helpful when determining solutions to facilitate the distribution of financial assistance. Fortunately, Fame has what you need to manage financial aid better. 

With our Financial Aid Processing Services, we understand the importance of cash flow to your institution and financial aid funds to your students. That’s why we strive to process all financial aid awards within 48 hours of input. Request a free consultation and start streamlining financial aid operations. 

How to Support At-Risk Students in 4 Steps

Identifying at-risk students is one thing. Supporting them is a whole other challenge. If you want to learn how to help at-risk students, follow these four strategies. 

1. Provide Individualized Support

Recognizing individual student needs and providing individualized support facilitate the academic environment for underachieving students. If they haven’t done so already, your post-secondary program instructors should monitor students and intervene if they fall below a certain academic threshold. 

For example, instructors could meet individually with students whose GPAs are below a 2.5 score. If you operate a trade school, encourage educators to work directly with students who struggle with hands-on training sessions.

2. Leverage Technological Solutions

Technology has and will continue to play a role in program and student success initiatives. The best software solutions allow administrators to focus on retention strategies by automating daily administrative tasks that take valuable time. 

Our Student Information Systems is a software solution that does just that. When you choose our innovative software, you can streamline communication across several departments via a single platform. The software allows easy collaboration with school personnel on how to help at-risk students become successful. 

Sign up for a free consultation to learn more about our products and services

3. Increase Access to Campus Resources

At-risk students must have access to a wide range of on-campus resources to succeed academically and professionally. Examples of resources to which your program should increase access include, but are not limited to:

  • Mentoring services
  • One-on-one tutoring sessions
  • Mental health services
  • Career services
  • External financial resources

If you’re a trade program administrator, introduce students to career service professionals to help them secure hands-on jobs in their industry after graduation.

4. Assemble a Risk Assessment Team

Do you have a risk assessment team that collaborates to minimize risks that could tarnish the student’s academic experience? If not, create one. A risk assessment team should consist of educators, counselors, advisors, and other higher-up professionals who can identify common challenges that at-risk students face.

Risk assessment teams should meet regularly to discuss, coordinate, and implement plans on how to help at-risk students

Help Your Students with Fame’s Solutions

Learning how to identify at-risk students is the first step to maximizing student retention rates and your program’s reputation. At-risk student identification requires the appropriate software solutions to facilitate daily institutional operations, including student management. Fame can help with that.

Request a demo of our Student Information Systems solution and see how your institution can reach new levels of success.