Early exposure to service-learning and college success beyond the freshman year

Wei Song, Andrew Furco, Geoffrey Maruyama, Isabel Lopez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Postsecondary institutions continue to search for effective approaches that enhance the educational success of their students, especially underrepresented students. For the longitudinal archival study discussed in this article, the authors investigated the role that students’ participation in service-learning during their first year of college played in their educational success. Two cohorts of undergraduate students who entered a large public research university in fall 2011 and fall 2012 were analyzed. By following the two cohorts for five or six years (up to fall 2017), the authors examined the differences in various educational outcomes between students who participated in a service-learning course during their first year and those who did not take service-learning courses throughout their college years. To account for students’ pre-college academic performance and personal characteristics, the authors used propensity score matching (PSM) to form comparison groups for each of the two treatment cohorts, and they performed parallel analyses for both the full sample and a sub-sample that included only underrepresented students. Analyses of the full sample revealed that for both the 2011 and 2012 cohorts, students who took a service-learning course in the first year achieved higher year-to-year cumulative GPAs and had significantly higher four-year graduation rates than did students who did not participate in service-learning during their college years. The findings for the underrepresented student subsample were similar but less consistent. Among explanations for the difference is less power given the smaller sample. However, more data are yet needed to understand better the relation of first-year service-learning participation among underrepresented students with educational success compared to students from the overall student population. Implications for future research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number15
JournalInternational Journal for Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2018


  • College success
  • First-year
  • Service-learning
  • Underrepresented students


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