4 simple truths for students’ college success

As your school’s teens get ready to get out into the world, here are four things they must have to make the best choices for life after high school.

4 simple truths for students’ college success

When it comes to student success, I’ve seen it all. After more than two decades of university teaching, some students have broken my heart, while others made me consider teaching a most rewarding calling.

Sadly, far too many young people ruin their opportunity for excellent postsecondary education with poor judgment.

Dropout rates for freshmen students range from 30 to 50 percent. There are many reasons for such failure: lack of academic preparedness, lack of motivation, or simply that many first-year students do not know how to manage their newfound freedom.

On the bright side, I have also witnessed many unlikely success stories. A homeless high school dropout returned to school after years of living a life of drugs and prostitution, eventually earning a Ph.D. Countless “late bloomers” finally found their way after floundering through the first year or two of postsecondary education. Such students demonstrate over and over again that education is key to a bright future.

Parents and students need to know the simple truths about how to achieve success. Here are four principles.

1. The right expectations
High expectations are important for success, but they need to be realistic. Not every student can achieve an A or get accepted into professions like medicine, law or academia.

However, everyone can excel in something. It is important that students know their own abilities, and that they and their parents have the right expectations for success in areas of strength.

The right expectations also mean setting realistic goals and striving to achieve these goals. Aiming too high leads to frustration and failure; aiming too low leads to underachievement. School counseling can help set the right expectations.

2. The right match
The landscape for postsecondary education has expanded dramatically in the past 10 years with all sorts of institutions meeting the diverse needs of students, ranging from community colleges and Christian liberal arts colleges to comprehensive universities.

No university will suit everyone. Some students prefer a large public university, while others need a small college in order to flourish. My advice for parents and students is to look for a good fit between the institution, the program of study, and the student’s temperament, ability and aspirations.

3. The right motivation
I have identified three negative and three positive motivations among first-year students for attending college.

The negative motivations are: external pressure from parents; social interest in meeting friends; no better option (i.e., they don’t know what else to do).

The positive motivations are: intrinsic interest in the pursuit of certain academic subjects; the instrumental value of getting a university degree in order to fulfill a career plan; desire for personal development.

Students with positive motivations tend to achieve higher grades and are less likely to drop out.

4. The right calling
Everyone has a unique calling. Some are called to be firemen, police officers or soldiers. Others are called to be teachers, doctors or pastors.

When a student has a clear sense of calling regarding future profession or life goals, they are more likely to be focused and motivated.

Getting into the wrong field of study without having the necessary gifts and talents means trouble ahead. It is best to sample different academic subjects in the first year of university, before deciding on a major.

Under the guidance of learned and dedicated professors, students can grow to become the best that they can be.

Dr. Paul Wong is the Department Head of the psychology department at Tyndale University College and Seminary. He is an ordained pastor, a registered clinical psychologist and university professor.


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