For more than 30 years, John Gardner has elevated the discussion about the importance of student success in the first‐year of college, with a heightened emphasis on first‐year seminar courses and their value. Many colleges and universities offer some version of a first‐year experience seminar, which is true for the Midwestern MAC School discussed in this research study. The purpose of this seven‐year retention study was: to assess the impact first‐year seminar had on retention rates for students enrolled in thematic and non‐thematic sections; to assess student leader post‐perceptions about the course; and to examine the extent to which first‐year students’ perceptions changed over a seven‐year period. Overall, findings are positive and encouraging based on analysis of the data. Specifically, findings illustrate that the first‐year seminar course has positively impacted student retention for both groups of students in the study, but more significantly for students enrolled in the thematic sections of the course. Additionally, the researcher’s findings also indicated that student leaders have positive post‐perceptions about the course, and lastly, the First‐Year Initiative survey findings show that over a seven‐year period, students’ perceptions about the course have improved.

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