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The relationship between successful transition to university and student retention is well established. Fundamental to this success is the university’s ability to develop evidence-based interventions to support the initial phases of transition. Yet, gaining insight into the initial transitional processes is problematic. This is due to the university transition beginning when the student commences their information search for institutions and courses, rather than after they arrive for induction. Meaningful pre-arrival insights can, however, be acquired when the student begins to communicate their choices through their social media network. The aim of this study was to provide insight to inform proactive transition and retention interventions, by exploring pre-arrival social media communication exchanges. A twenty-one-month netnography of prospective student social media conversations, identified through a hashtag on Twitter and Instagram was undertaken. Triangulated thematic analysis of the netnographic data identified four consistent topics of conversation, revealing the expectations and tensions of a cohort from the initial transition stage until induction. This research makes the following contribution; employing proactive induction interventions that are informed by pre-arrival communication insights improves retention and academic grades.
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