As we work with students in this decision-making process over the next few weeks, it's disheartening to know that as many as one in three college freshmen don't return to school for their sophomore year.
Yup, nearly 33% of these excited college freshmen-to-be will drop out of college before their second year and nearly 50% of them won't finish college and get their degree...How can this be?
Students have lots of reasons. Dr. Robert Pitcher of the Educational Development Center at the University of Alabama offers ten reasons- ranging from poor high school preparation to selection of the wrong college to psychological problems (which includes homesickness and a difficulty fitting in).
Public Insight Network conducted a large study to try to figure out why students start a college degree, but don't finish it. Many former students say they went to college because it was expected of them, not because they wanted to go (maybe American students should embrace the idea of a gap year in the way that students in Europe do). Other former students cited an inability to afford college or a realization that what they wanted to do didn't require a college degree.
So, what's a parent to do?
- Talk to your kids. Tell them the statistics of staying in school.
- Balance your comments about college. Don't only talk about all the fun. Talk about the tough stuff too- the hard class work, the homesickness, the challenges of living with a bunch of people you don't know.
- Make sure your students are aware of the support at college- resident assistants, resident directors, the counseling resources. Tell them that everyone at the college wants each student to find success and that many people are available to help as needed. Make sure they know that you are open to outside help if the student believes the college resources are unable to meet needs.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Don't minimize your student's feelings. Going to college is a time of transition and won't be a straight upward arc. There will be set-backs and some upset during the transition. Keep talking.
There are many safety nets in place for students as they begin college. Convincing students to use those nets may be the tougher battle.