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First-Year Students and Noncognitive Assets:

An Academic Advising “Profile Tool” Developed from a Prematriculation Inventory and UIC Retention Research Heading link

Noncognitive assets in student success have emerged as an important area of focus, whether at the K-12 level or within higher education. “Noncognitive assets” are behaviors, mindsets, and strategies that contribute to student success, beyond the academic skills and aptitudes that traditionally are associated with learning (Farrington, et. al, 2012). The concept of noncognitive assets speaks to how students perceive themselves and their ability to learn, acclimate, and respond to challenges.

At the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Office for Research on Student Success (ORSS), within the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Affairs and Academic Programs, has in recent years developed a first-year student survey to provide a prematriculation measure of noncognitive assets for incoming students. The survey results have been analyzed each year since 2013* in relation to UIC retention outcomes, allowing researchers to identify specific noncognitive assets as being associated with first-to-second-year retention at UIC. In turn, a student success initiative and pilot in 2017 led to the collaborative development of an advising “profile tool” to relay information about student noncognitive assets to UIC college advisors and academic support units, allowing them to incorporate this topic within their work with students. Currently, all UIC colleges with first-year and new transfer students receive the profile tool for their students via iAdvise student success online portal, as do approximately 20 other academic support units on campus.

The current version of the profile tool includes 13 noncognitive categories:

  • Time Management
  • Academic Goal Engagement
  • Family-School Conflict
  • Academic Help-Seeking
  • Academic Self-Efficacy
  • Academic Readiness
  • Value of Education
  • Sense of Belonging in High School
  • Belonging Certainty in College
  • Planning Strategies
  • Support for Being in College
  • Work-School Conflict
  • Adaptability

On the survey, incoming students have responded to several items about their self-perceptions in regard to each of the above. The answers are then translated into scores by the ORSS. The scores are mapped onto retention thresholds. In each category, most students meet the upper “green” threshold, indicating retention outcomes have generally been good for past students with these scores. Some scores fall below a “blue” threshold, which is associated with some retention risk. Some scores fall below a “purple” threshold, which is associated with heightened retention risk. On a student’s profile tool, advisors see the color code for each noncognitive category, and they are able to use this information to inform their early orientation and advising interactions with students. For students with a range of “blue” and “purple” scores, advisors may also reach out to them early in the Fall semester to connect them with resources and make campus referrals to support them in their acclimation to college. The retention research continues to be updated, with categories being added and removed, based on the retention analysis.

* The survey was administered during the Fall semester in 2013/2014, before becoming a prematriculation survey in 2015


The profile tool was developed under the leadership of Dr. Susan Farruggia in collaboration with campus partners; the project has been supported by two grant providers, including the Mayer and Morris Kaplan Family Foundation, with additional consultation with the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research. This approach was expanded to the advising of transfer students in 2019.