In a recent analysis of federal data on classes entering college in 2010, the Washington Post ranked the University of Virginia first among all public flagship universities for its four-year graduation rate.
The four-year graduation was 88 percent, based on 2010 data, and it has only climbed since then, reaching 89 percent for the class that entered in 2013 and graduated in the spring of 2017.
This success is due largely to the high academic caliber of UVA students and to a number of University programs that work with them on a daily basis to ensure they have the support they need to earn their degree in four years.
Every student has a unique experience with support from faculty and peers on Grounds, but multiple areas of assistance bolster retention and graduation for all undergraduates.
Invested Faculty Mentors
When they arrive on Grounds, undergraduates are assigned to an association dean whose primary responsibility is to advise students on academic matters and refer them to the various University agencies that can best meet their needs. In the College of Arts & Sciences, every student is also assigned to a faculty adviser to meet with them and assist with long-range academic planning and selecting a major. Once a major is selected, students are paired with an adviser inside their department.
Students can find additional opportunities for mentorship and guidance in their chosen academic path with UVA programs like USOAR, or Undergraduate Student Opportunities in Academic Research. USOAR is an application-based program that connects first- and second-year and transfer students with paid research opportunities alongside faculty members. Research positions are available in traditional lab settings as well as in the humanities and social sciences.
Experienced Peer Advisers
UVA has a robust system of peer advising programs designed to help students of all academic interests and backgrounds succeed. The ULink program, for example, partners first-year students with upperclass peers to help advise them on topics including class selection, major choice and available academic resources. The program began in 2013 with just 100 advisers; by the 2016-17 school year, it grew to 350 advisers serving 1,800 first-year students.
In addition to ULink, the University’s Office of African American Affairs’ Peer Advisor Program has been nationally recognized for its exemplary work. The program, which began in 1984, assists black first-year and entering transfer students with personalized support and counseling. At 80 percent, UVA consistently has one of the highest African-American graduation rates in the country.
Incoming students can also seek out advice and mentoring through the Transfer Student Peer Advisors Program, the Hispanic/Latinx Peer Mentoring Program and the Peer Advising Family Network, a program designed for incoming Asian and Asian-American students.
Student Affairs’ Multifaceted Support System
UVA’s Division of Student Affairs aids the academic enterprise by offering programs to help students succeed from the moment they first arrive on Grounds. They help foster a strong first-year experience with a residential component in which all first-year students live together and are assigned to a resident adviser. In first-year residence halls, there is one resident adviser for every 24 students, and there’s a ratio of 1:65 in upperclassmen dormitories.
Student Affairs also ensures that students have regular access to career advising through the UVA Career Center and counseling services through the Harrison Bowne “Tersh” Smith Jr. Memorial Center for Counseling and Psychological Services, or CAPS.
This overall support framework, led primarily by Student Affairs, offers structured and unstructured engagement and advising for students to thrive and learn to be citizen-leaders within a system of self-governance.
Diversity of Social Activities and Opportunities for Engagement
The University’s long tradition of student self-governance has led to hundreds of opportunities for students to pursue their passions, both inside the classroom and out. More than 500 student groups serve nearly every area of interest, and students can also launch their own clubs and groups at any time, applying to receive funding allocations from Student Council.
Existing groups, known on Grounds as contracted independent organizations, or CIOs, are available for everything from outdoor pursuits, to cooking, religious and cultural interests, professional development and more.
Personalized Experience with Financial Aid
UVA has need-blind admissions, so a student’s ability to pay is never a factor in his or her admission. Once they have been admitted, UVA is committed to meeting 100 percent of their demonstrated financial need. This careful process of structuring the best combination of grants, scholarships, loans and work study to fit each student begins as soon as they enroll and continues for all four years.
In addition to connecting students with the financial resources they need, the University ensures that need-based loans are limited to an average of $4,500 per year for in-state students and $7,000 per year for out-of-state students. This process limits the accrual of debt for students while they’re in school and lowers the financial burden when they graduate.
With each passing year, University students, faculty and staff work together to expand the number of programs and support available to all students. Their collaboration not only helps continue the UVA tradition of high graduation rates, but also ensures that students have the tools they need to be successful after they leave Grounds.