No Wonder Why So Many College Students Fail

Jello shots: Not the best plan for college success.

Have you ever wondered why so many students who start college fail to graduate? Or why some students succeed and others fail?

As a homeschooling parent, and guidance counselor to your kids, you may wish to learn more about research that explores student expectations and attitudes.

Research finds most high school students have a very unrealistic set of ideas about college. They do not believe that college will be difficult or demanding.

  • Only 11% of students believe that college will be difficult. 49% said it will not be difficult and 40% are unsure.
  • Nearly 70% do not believe balancing college with personal and work lives will be a real challenge.

Why Does This Matter?
Most parents want, and expect, their college attending kids to graduate within four years. Even if we bump it up to six years, still over 40% of the students who start college will not have finished. This represents a huge number of students who have devoted time and money to college and are left without a degree.

So, what does this have to do with most high school students thinking college will not be difficult? A lot. Students who expect college to be easy do not adopt the sorts of behavior that result in college success. Research suggests the first year is the crucial time for students to successfully transition to college. Students who study more hours, speak with professors, manage time well, and join campus academic groups are more likely to have good grades and stay in college. Students who think they will do well no matter what are less likely to be successful.

What To Do To Help Prepare Your Homeschooler

  • Talk about realistic expectations for college including the amount of time students should expect to study.
  • Work on supportive skills such as time management and study skills.
  • Consider the possibility of dual enrollment courses on a college campus.
  • Make your homeschool high school one with rigorous standards and high expectations. When only 11% of high schools students believe college will be difficult that is most likely reflecting their experience with high school. If a high school student has spent four years with grade inflation, busy work, and lots of opportunities for extensions and extra credit he or she isn’t getting a realistic exposure to what will be expected in college. Expect more from your homeschoolers.



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  1. Seth

    And what is college success? If a student’s goal is to find an easy major and to graduate with a C average, he may graduate. But to graduate without skills in critical thinking, complex reasoning, or writing, is an empty accomplishment. College may be harder than high school, but the “real world” is infinitely more challenging.

  2. Barbara Hettle

    Great point Seth. The value of the college education isn’t just about the piece of paper but about what the student really gets from the experience.

  3. Griffindorish

    I blame grade inflation. Among the young people I talk to regularly (kids’ friends, etc.) it really seems like they all expect to get A’s and B’s regardless of whether they ever open a book after class. I am hopeful that homeschooling will give my kids the time-management skills to do better, but only time will tell, I guess.

  4. Barbara Hettle

    Interesting thoughts about grade inflation. Parents are often confused when they see the average GPA of students admitted to various colleges because even at not particularly competitive schools it is common for it to be around 3.5. If As and Bs are average it may make it hard for parents to know if their kids are not mastering the material.

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