3 Secrets to Staying in College

November 16, 2011

“The national statistics for graduating college with a bachelor’s degree within 6 years is 57% and 37% for students with a documented learning disability.”
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2011)

Today’s newsletter looks at how your student can avoid the negative side of these statistics…

Visiting campuses as part of a counselor tour has many benefits, not the least of which is the opportunity to interact with many different students.

There are students available at meals, placed there with instructions to “chat with the counselors informally.”  There are students giving campus tours.  There are even student panels set up, each one made up of four to six kids who have graciously volunteered to be grilled by the group.

Many themes emerged, but these three stood out the most for me:

  1. Many older students were disappointed in not having looked into internships, fellowships, research opportunities and other special programs sooner– while they were still underclassmen.Those that visited the Career Services office as freshman, on the other hand, were happy they did. This helped them plan right from the start what they needed in order to be selected for a coveted internship or other hands-on opportunity. Similarly, those who sought out advice from their adviser, a trusted professor, or an older student also felt more successful in finding a meaningful path.

    In many cases, the early connection with staff and others seemed to be the hook that kids needed to see the value in working hard and keeping academics a higher priority than simply being the “Beer Pong Champion.”

  2. The kids who get involved in something on campus and who make an effort to meet new people (as opposed to going home each weekend or hanging around exclusively with high school friends) are the happiest.  A school can be a great fit academically, but without a connection to something outside of class as well, it can be hard to feel a sense of belonging (a key element in curbing homesickness)
  3. Many students said that the academics were initially difficult.For some it was the actual content of the academics.  For others it was inadequate organization and study skills given the increased volume of work.  (These are areas that all kids should be working on in the years leading up to college, but many are arriving underprepared.)Students spoke about waiting too long to take advantage of tutoring, math and writing centers, workshops on time management, study skills, etc. These services are open to all students and are usually free of charge (well, included in your tuition, anyway!).

    Particularly for those students who received academic support in high school, it is usually a mistake to think that they will not need some support in college. The Office of Disability Services offers accommodations and learning support for students with documentation of a disability. The catch is that the student (not the parent) has to request the services. It may be appropriate to take a reduced course load while adjusting to college demands. Waiting to ask for help until receiving failing grades at midterms/finals is a recipe for lots of stress and can sometimes be a reason for dropping out.

The Bottom Line: There are opportunities to do amazing things at every college I have visited. Help your child pick their school carefully; encourage them to get help early and often and to find something (not someone) that they are passionate about. See you at graduation!

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