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For a long list of reasons, colleges are eager for students to stay enrolled and finish their educations. Schools need seats filled. Their rankings are based partially on retention and graduation rates, and they need to send qualified, happy alumni into the world.
So typically, they do whatever they can to help students stay in school. They’ll help financially when possible, but most schools bend over backwards to help students who are struggling academically.
But while schools can lead a horse to water, they can’t make him/her drink. Students need to keep up their end of the bargain so they can make their grades, finish school, and graduate to the kind of life they want.
Students who are struggling need to:
Use tutoring services
I’ve written in previous posts that students need to be taught to ask for help, as early as middle school, and at least by high school. When they go to college, their highly effective, yet unpaid assistants—their parents—stay home. All of a sudden, students feel like they don’t have anybody there for them.
Recently, a student I know received an F in calculus at a large state school in Tennessee. In high school, she had excellent calculus grades, but she flamed out in college. Turns out, she never asked for help. She lost her scholarship, and her dad told her she has to transfer to a university closer to home. Not only did she come back to West Virginia, but the F in calculus destroyed her grade point average and the opportunity for a scholarship. I tell my kids: Your ego is not your amigo when it comes to tutoring.
Students have to be able to tell their friends: “No, I can’t go out tonight. I need to study.” Know when you must study—and then do it. It’s difficult to study in a dorm room—even a suite. Go to the library or someplace secluded to study. Self-discipline also means turning in work on time. Procrastination can be a self-discipline issue, because sometimes a student doesn’t want to do their work. But, procrastination also can be a symptom of something more, such as not knowing how to begin an assignment or how to organize their notes or thoughts. In this situation, it would be appropriate for students to seek help.
Sometimes, incoming college students are not prepared for the depth and breadth of academic work in college. Memorization is a thing of the past and is replaced by critical and analytical thinking. This style shift can make it difficult to master subject matter and earn good grades. Students need to be encouraged to again, seek help, ask questions of their professors, and do the assigned reading after every class.
Learn time management
A common problem that affects college students is learning to balance new-found free time, more rigorous academics and personal freedom. Here’s a good rule: For every hour students spend in a classroom, they need to spend two hours outside the classroom studying independently. College is the major leagues. There will be no coddling from professors. Read material. Make sure you understand it. Start term papers as soon as possible and turn work in on time. You must keep up and speak up.
The good news is that freshman year is an adjustment period, and things get easier, even as soon as second semester when students have friends, know their way around campus, and adjust to being away from their families. With hard work, perseverance, and a positive attitude, your college freshman will be tossing a diploma in the air before you can say, “Congratulations!”
Jamie Dickenson, MBA, CEP
Independent Educational Consultant specializing in college admissions and financial aid, motivational speaker, business coach and owner of Jamie Dickenson, LLC., IEC Advisors, and Yoga Power, LLC.
Jamie Dickenson is not affiliated with Hartford Funds. Hartford Funds has separately contracted with Ms. Dickenson to provide additional insight about college savings issues.