BY MITCHELL ROSEN
MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPIST
This is the time of year college-bound seniors will begin to get early acceptance letters from universities. Anxious young men and women pore over the mail in their parents' mailbox. It is a very personal and lonely time for 17- and 18-year-olds as they open letters they feel will determine their futures.
I am not minimizing the value of setting a goal and obtaining it. But getting into a school and graduating from it are whole different issues. Yes, some schools have statistics that tout the percentage of students who enroll and then graduate within four years as over well over 70 percent. Less encouraging are the schools that hover around 50 percent or below.
Educators interview their students and try figuring out with some statistical certainty just how many will walk down the aisle four, even five years later, and the reason or reasons so many do not. For every parent who has sent off a son or daughter on a day filled with encouragement only to discover the path was not set in stone, these parents and young adults have to adjust to a difficult detour.
If I had to list the top reasons young men and women do not make it through and wind up back home without a degree, several obstacles emerge: Alcohol and drugs, love gone wrong, video games, depression (the late teens and early 20s are the prime ages for many of the more serious emotional disorders to present), finances, too much or too little supervision; these are the problems that I see derail so many university students.
So how do families minimize the odds their child will go to college only to return without a degree? There is no one-size-fits-all, but I have found among those students who are successful there is a continued contact with parents and home. It may not be every day, even every week, but whether by cellular, email or trips home, students who enjoy their independence yet are comfortable with their families seem to have a foundational advantage.
Understanding the first year is often the hardest is also essential. Taking a full load plus an extra few classes and working part-time the first year of college is not for everyone. Yes, the more units you take, the early one graduates, but once that first D or F rolls in, the whole tenor of what is possible, even likely, changes.
Many can handle working and a full-time load but the first year may not be the time to load up on difficult classes required to graduate. Every university I have toured has a student health center with counseling services attached. There is no shame and always anonymity. It may be humbling, but so many young men and women struggle that first year. Making an appointment and sitting down for an hour may be the most important college experience of all.
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