It can seem like getting into college is the biggest challenge these days. With the application process getting more and more competitive, unfortunately, getting in is only the beginning. The real challenge is staying in and graduating.
Years ago, I had a friend I was working with who graduated in the top third of his high school class. He was thrilled to be accepted by Columbia. Everything was just as he imagined. But when I saw my friend in November, things were different.
After lunch one day, my friend began explaining that he had been expelled from college for his grades, and he would be taking a year off and enrolling in a community college to retake some courses. How could this happen to a good student?
My friend admitted that he wasn’t ready for the sudden freedom and responsibility he had in college. He also wasn’t prepared for the academically challenging courses.
I understand sudden freedom can be too much for some students. I just never expected a good student to be one of the first of his graduating class to have to dropped out.
As the excitement of high school graduation is behind us and students are enjoying the summer before heading off to school, it is essential to plan ahead for the challenges of college life.
My friend’s situation stands out in my mind because it was so unexpected. I’ve had a number of former students with more predictable college problems. As you are in the college planning process, watch for these foreseeable issues:
- Lack of motivation or purpose. Yes, some unmotivated high school students find their purpose and passion in college. Others start changing majors, dropping classes mid-semester, and making excuses for lack of performance
- Not ready to live independently. Some students just aren’t ready for the responsibility of living on their own. Other students, especially those who finished high school early, aren’t ready for some of the social dynamics on campus.
- Bad fit. I’ve worked with students who insisted on applying to schools that didn’t fit -- academically, socially, politically, geographically, financially, etc. A great student at the wrong school will be unhappy and unproductive.
- Financially unable to finish. I’ve seen too many students who had to leave their dream schools after one year because they were unable to afford it. Learn how to finance for your college education.
- In over their heads. Some students are thrilled to be accepted at one of their “reach” schools only to find themselves struggling to keep up academically. .
- Academically unprepared. Unfortunately, a high school diploma doesn’t indicate readiness for college-level work. Some students skated by in high school without learning foundational material.
- All fun; no work. I think we all have heard of some kid who partied his way out of college. Sometimes good kids fall into a party crowd at college; other students are a party waiting to happen no matter where they attend.
Identify potential problems and avoid them in your college search process. Keep in mind “fit” isn’t just about finding a school that will admit you based on your scores and grades; it is about finding the college where you will be most successful.
Remember, getting into college doesn’t matter if you can’t stay in.