Posts Tagged ‘college freshmen’

High school students looking forward to their senior year cannot easily get excited about more school work after that. Yet for those considering college, the choices after high school require attention now.

As associate dean for undergraduates at the University of Maryland, I met many students who at first resisted this idea of visiting colleges saying, “I don’t even know what I want to do.” But your student shouldn’t put off college visits because no main field of study has come to mind. Most entering freshmen are only aware of a dozen or so of the 100-plus programs most colleges offer. College is for learning about yourself and how your own special talents fit the possibilities.

Few students stick to their first career notions. Over 90 percent of college students will change their major during their college years. Half will change more than once as they explore the details of subjects in college courses.

Other students may resist these first steps toward college by flatly stating, “I don’t want to go to college,” just to put off parents’ questions or because they have only a TV view of what college could be.

To get enthusiastic about college, your high school junior needs some first-hand information. The spark of excitement won’t come from just talking with Mom or Dad about the choices of work, local college, or a school far away.

This summer is a good time for soon-to-be seniors to visit colleges. In the fall, it will be time for applications so chances for visiting will be nearly over.

Driving down to a college to “just look around” can be frustrating for both student and parent if no arrangements have been made in advance. Have your budding college student call ahead to the college admissions office and set things up. A parent can help a balking 16-year-old by providing a short list of things to say:
1. Tell them you are going into your senior year and you would like to visit the campus and talk to an admissions person.
2. Mention the major subjects you are interested in.
3. Ask what events are going on that weekend. Special events may make it difficult to see facilities and faculty, or the events coming up might give you a special reason to make an effort to go on a particular date.
4. Ask about visiting a dorm.
5. Ask about talking to someone about financial aid programs (next week’s topic) and filling out the required Student Aid Report while you are there.

Your student might also ask about meeting with students in majors that are of interest. If the admissions office can’t help with that one, you or your teen may know someone you could look up during your visit.

Ask your college-bound student to begin a summarizing chart so that both of you will have a good review sheet when the time for the final decision comes. Include places for his ratings of the programs and courses, the college town, dorms, and job opportunities. What do students say about the different meal plans available and the size of the classes? How convenient is the traveling from home to campus?


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Amy used her new cell phone to call home every week when she started college. Her Mom would respond, “Oh, Amy, I hope you are well. We miss you so much. Little Pam keeps saying, ‘When is Amy coming home?'”

Amy endured the weekly tugs on the guilt strings for six weeks, then she came to my office to do the paper work to drop out. Her short college career was partly due to Mom’s unintentional focus on the negative.

Parents can help with college adjustment by keeping the calls up-beat, the pressure about jobs, money, and grades as low as possible.

Our surveys show that only 10% of college dropouts have grades too low. Working and living far from campus are the most outstanding differences between the successful college students and the dropouts, the surveys show. Most dropouts work too many hours at an outside job too far away.

Parents may be proud of sons and daughters who juggle busy schedules of jobs and school, but if the job takes over, the only parts of the college experience left to quit may be the classes. All the other advantages of college, ski clubs, travel groups, politically active groups, have been crowded out by job hours. Encourage your college-bound son or daughter to live and work close to the school environment and work only the necessary hours at an outside job.

Trouble selecting a major and a career is another large factor in the dropout statistics. Most state universities have 100 or more majors, but few first-time students can name 20! No wonder over 90% of freshmen change their major somewhere along the way.

Parents can help here also by talking over the majors represented in the early required courses and keeping the pressure to make an early decision low. One primary advantage of college is to educate your new student about the variety of life’s opportunities.

Students are often tempted to put off the decision about a major by leaving college for “a year off.” But if college is viewed as a source of information about choices, then staying in makes sense. Little is lost by taking courses to explore the wide range of majors and careers before making this important decision. It’s a long way from graduation to retirement!

Most colleges have career counselors who can be a great help if they are in on the early planning. With their help in the first year or two, both the student’s interests and the practical side of career training can usually be accommodated.

Habits, usually started at home such as sleeping, diet, and alcohol make up dangerous pitfalls in the college journey. College students are young enough to be one of the most healthy groups in our society, yet they have a poor health record. Parents of teens with a year or two of high school left can prepare their sons and daughters for the challenges of caring for themselves and their time and money.

The mail boxes of most college students will be filled with offers of sales and credit cards that soon require more payments that lead to more hours at work. Caution your college student to keep life simple with few obligations to make payments on cars, credit, and clothes.

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Advice for College-Bound

Let me answer a few questions from your off-to-college son or daughter: How many high school grads go to college? About half. How many of those will make it to a college degree? About half. How many will flunk out? About 10 percent, the left-over 40 percent will drop out for their own reasons. How many will change their major? About 90 percent, half will change more than once. How many will have an alcohol problem?  About 31 percent, according to a Rutgers study in the Journal of Studies of Alcohol and Drugs.

How many girls will leave because of pregnancy? About five percent, and 15 percent of both sexes will contract a sexually transmitted disease. Almost all will blame alcohol for the unsafe behavior.

The risk of alcohol-related deaths of college students increased six percent from1998 to 2000, reports the American Review of Public Health. College students who reported driving under the influence went from 26 to 31 percent, and 500,000 were unintentionally injured while under the influence. Another 600,000 were hit or assaulted, or sexually assaulted,  by another drinking student.

For why the 40 percent who have acceptable grades left for their own reasons, the most useful question to ask is, “How far do you live from campus?” If you live far away, you probably work far away. Traffic and parking become a big part of life, and you might be tempted to avoid extra trips to campus for clubs, sports, study sessions or just hanging out. If work and driving “home” take up 30 hours a week, there’s not much college left to quit. Live as close to campus as possible.

Driving is a big part of life, and it is the biggest killer of college students until they are in their thirties. Of course their alcohol habit plays a large role in driving accidents as it does in the career wreckers of pregnancy, health problems, and money and time mismanagement

What can a college student do to keep up course grades? A good way to remember the good habits is with the letters in SNAP. The “S” in SNAP stands for Show Up. The best predictor of low grades is the number of classes missed. Almost all students who drop out start by missing classes for work or sleep. Woody Allen once said, “Eighty percent of life is just showing up,” and he’s right.

            The “N” in SNAP stands for Notes. I never had a student flunk who could show me reading notes. All great women and men take notes on their work. A good rule is, “Never turn a page without writing something.” Copy and clean up lecture notes on the same day you take them.

            The “A” in SNAP stands for Active Studying. Tests ask you to do something and learning is in the doing. A yellow highlighter cannot write the answers. Get busy. Use a lot of paper.

            The “P” in SNAP stands for Planning. It’s easy to squander your time on entertainment, partying and computer games. Select and reserve your time for studying, mark your calendar and stick to it.

            In the few days of August that are left before school, review the health issue. If your college-bound takes regular medication has he arranged for refills at college? Does he or she know who to call locally if medical help is needed?

If your son or daughter is cooking for himself, perhaps an additional lesson at the food store about buying healthy food is in order.

Caution your student to avoid all credit card offers (his mailbox will be full of them in the first few weeks). That’s only one suggestion about the money and time management issues that could come up at a family sendoff college shower, an evening when everyone could offer their advice.

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