No Wonder Why So Many College Students Fail

books spiralHave 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 children, 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 children to graduate within four years.  The current SIX year graduation rate stands is just under 60%. So, about 40% of the students who start college will not have finished six years later. This represents a huge number of students who have devoted time and money to college and are left without a degree. Many of the students who don’t graduate still will have taken on student loan debt.

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 habits 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 Student

  • Talk about realistic expectations for college including the amount of time students should expect to study. Typical expectation is that students spent 8 to 10 hour of week for each class, not including class time.
  • Work on supportive skills such as time management and study skills. Make sure your kids learn to use a planner, calendar, or apps to organize their time. Encourage them to be busy and engaged during the teen years so they learn to manage multiple responsibilities.
  • Consider the possibility of dual enrollment courses on a college campus. Dual enrollment is a wonderful way to gain experience with college expectation.
  • 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.


  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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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