Monday, February 15, 2010

Is Your Student Ready for College?

by Dave Verhaagen, Ph.D., ABPP

What are the chances your high school senior will make it through her freshman year of college?  Kostas Andrea Fanti found that only half of incoming college freshman earn a degree in five years and, of the remaining half, a full 37% drop out entirely.  Most of the studies find that about 1 out of 3 don't return to their school after their first year.  In other words, a lot of students are at risk for not making it through their freshman year.  By the way, this trend has been going on for decades.  In a study of nearly 58,000 students back in the early 1920's, the author found that 32% of college freshman don't make it past their first year.

So who is at risk for dropping out?  Here's a partial list of some of the patterns that put a student at greater risk:

* Students who have had to be externally motivated and excessively structured by parents and teachers.

* Students who manage their time very poorly, especially with school-related work.

* Students with ADHD who do not manage their condition well (i.e., forget their medicine, don't keep their materials organized, procrastinate, etc.).

* Students who are prone to depression or anxiety in a way that makes them isolate themselves from others, get easily overwhelmed, or turn to self-medicating.

* Students who use substances regularly and/or drink heavily, especially if their use has already caused them to get in trouble or underachieve academically.

For these students, it is often important to seek out professional support or consultation before they go off to school.  Once there, they will often need support services at their university that can be accessed through the counseling center, the learning support center, or the office for students with disabilities.  It's almost always better to be proactive and set up supports ahead of time.

Dave Verhaagen is a licensed psychologist who specializes in working with older high school and college students.