Friday, January 30, 2009

Sue Scheff: College Dropouts

Source: Connect with Kids

“It’s very, very easy for students to become over-committed very quickly and to lose sight of why they’re in college.”

– Sherrie Nist, Ph.D., Professor.

Lee Hutto’s first attempt at college was not successful.

“My first semester I withdrew because I was gonna fail all my classes,” he says.

As a college freshman, Lee was not prepared for the fraternities, parties, sports and long hours of hard work.

“It’s very, very easy for students to become over-committed very quickly and to lose sight of why they’re in college,” says Dr. Sherrie Nist, director of academic enhancement at the University of Georgia.

In fact, some estimates show 20 percent of college students drop out before the start of their sophomore year- one in five!

One problem, experts say, is they never really learned how to manage their time.

Dr. Nist agrees, “That’s sort of hard to do when your son or daughter is just walking out the door, ‘oh, by the way, manage your time.’ That should be a skill they’re trying to instill in their children from the time they are small children.”

She says parents need to start years before college, allowing kids room to make mistakes, gradually increasing their freedom while they are still at home.

“And then instilling in them once they give them the freedom, they have to accept the responsibility for that freedom. That’s a hard lesson to learn,” she says.

Lee agrees, “I was ready to leave home, but I just wasn’t ready to accept everything that came with college. So, I guess, I wanted the freedom, but not the responsibility.”

One way to reduce freshman dropouts, experts say, is make sure your child is really ready for college, even if that means waiting a year or two.

Dr. Nist says, “Not all 18-year-olds are ready to go off to school and sometimes a year or two out in the workplace and maturing a little bit is the best thing students can do.”

And many kids will go back to school. Lee plans to start again next semester.

“I’ll go there in January and hopefully get the ball rolling again,” he says.

Tips for Parents

For parents, sending their child away to college means a major life adjustment. Packing up their belongings and dropping them off in a foreign environment may be as depressing for you as it is exhilarating to them. Your attitude can have a dramatic impact on their first days or even weeks away from home.

Going to college is an exciting time for students. They are out on their own for the first time, away from mom and dad and living on their own time. They make their own decisions - whether they will go to class or not, who they will hang out with and how late they should stay out the night before exams.

Time management becomes a successful college student’s most valuable tool, one that can make or break their college career. Poor time management skills may be the main reason over 20 percent of college students drop out before the start of their sophomore year.

So how do you ensure your child is prepared for the coming semester? The first step is to make sure they understand why college is important. The U.S. Department of Education says a college degree can mean:

Greater Knowledge. A college education will increase your child's ability to understand developments in science and in society, to think abstractly and critically, to express thoughts clearly in speech and in writing, and to make wise decisions. These skills are useful both on and off the job.

Greater Potential. A college education can help increase your child's understanding of the community, the nation and the world as they explore interests, discover new areas of knowledge, consider lifelong goals and become responsible citizens.

More Job Opportunities. The world is changing rapidly. Many jobs rely on new technology and already require more brain power than muscle power. In your child's working life, more and more jobs will require education beyond high school. With a college education, your child will have more jobs from which to choose.

More Money. A person who attends college generally earns more than a person who does not. For example, in 1994, a person with a college degree from a four-year college earned $12,500 more than a person who did not go to college. Someone with a two-year associate's degree also tends to earn more than a high school graduate.

After explaining the importance of higher education, you need to make sure your child can mange their own time. You may want to consider giving them more room, allowing them to make mistakes. Clemson University also suggests going over the following time management tools:

Remind your teen that in college they control the timing of their academic schedule and they need to do it wisely. Give them a few tasks to do around the house without telling them when and how to do it. This will give them (and you) an idea of how they will manage their time.
Tell them studying properly is serious business. They should plan on devoting hours of out-of-class time per week to the task. The general rule of thumb is 2 hours outside of class for every one hour in class.

Suggest that they will study better if they study often and in relatively short sessions.
Tell them that weekly planning is a good way to ensure that they have adequate time for studying. Before high school ends, have them plan out their week – school activities, extracurricular activities and chores at home. Remind them that writing it down works!
Have them get in the habit of making a weekly schedule of their study plans.
Suggest they stick to their plan!

Often the difference between high school and college is the biggest challenge for new college students. Offer up the following advice on how college is different than high school:

Material is presented more rapidly and in larger quantities.
Fewer exams are given and each exam covers more material.
All assignments typically count toward the final grade.
Keeping up with previous material is essential to understand new topics.
Considerable out-of-class time investments are required to effectively learn course material.
Critical thinking is more important than rote memorization.
Students are expected not only to understand the specific examples given in class, but also to apply their knowledge broadly.
Neither professors nor parents are “looking over your shoulder” to ensure that necessary coursework gets done on time.

Help is available, but you must take the initiative to seek it out.

Clemson University
U.S. Department of Education
University of Minnesota-Duluth