There is a sick joke among college professors:
"You send us your children in September, and
we try really hard to send them back home before Halloween!"
Sadly, there is a grain of truth in this statement. The first six weeks of college are crucial; many students drop out that quickly.
There is a grain of truth inside almost every criticism and almost every sick joke. Our job, as both parents and educators, is to find that grain of truth and do something to offset it.
Disarm that grain of truth! Here are four practices to implement long before your children are looking into colleges:
Mindset of the Student. I attended my college reunion when my son was a senior in high school. Chatting with an old friend, he asked about my family. I told him my son wanted to attend Point Loma, but I didn't know if I wanted to work hard enough to pay for a private college because he certainly wasn't "studious." My friend laughed and said, "How soon we forget! You and I were not studious!" I looked at his business card..."Superintendent of Schools," an laughed. Yes, how soon we forget!
Let's plant a mindset in our children from birth that success...in college and in life...is hard work, but let's not forget that their informal education is also valuable. Help them to learn from their little mistakes. Then the big ones won't be quite as traumatic.
Mindset of the Institution. I met with one of my SCORE students who earned his Bachelor's degree from UC Irvine and his Masters from Harvard. I asked him to compare the two institutions. Without hesitation, he said, "At UCI, they told me, 'don't fail; don't fail.' At Harvard, they told me, 'Succeed!'"
Let's plant in our children a mindset of success...from birth through adulthood.
Academic Preparation. Students with good study (metacognition) skills graduate at higher rates than their peers. They have learned how to negotiate content and adapt learning skills to meet their goals.
Teach your children to experiment with learning tools. Make sure your school teaches metacognition (check out our curriculum...LockettLearningSystems.com ).
Emotional/Social Preparation. During my son's junior year of high school, two colleagues' children were kicked out of college because of the fallout of substance abuse. It is traumatic to leave home and assume responsibility for yourself for the first time in your life. We joke about the "Freshman 10," indicating that we expect freshmen to gain weight now that they must manage their own eating habits. That is minor compared to the problems associated with poor life choices.
Teach children to be responsible and make their own decisions while they're still home. Ease that transition. I gave my son "custody of himself" during his senior year. He could make his own decisions about when to go to bed, what to eat, where to go. He also had to assume responsibility to get his homework done, keep his grades up, ask for help when he needed it, and get up in the morning in time for school. I maintained veto power to prevent something harmful, and we talked about his decisions...but he had experience taking care of himself before he left home. He gained his "freshman 10" at home drinking cokes instead of at college drinking beer. We discussed making healthy choices. It was a good trade-off.
Success really is the best revenge! May all your children and students sail through Halloween!