Enhancing Student Success

Did you know that less than 50% of college students graduate in four years? That 75% of students see no relation between college major and career after college?

As someone who works in the area of adult career changes, I have talked to many adults about their college decisions and majors. Many adults felt they didn’t do enough introspection and internal examination about what to study. Few took assessments in high school or college to help them understand themselves. In the past, grades, or SAT scores were most important.

Adults growing up in the 1950’s and 1960’s were strongly influenced by their parents and their financial situation, especially those who had parents who grew up in the depression. For them, making money was of prime importance. One 40 ish adult, now unhappy in the account industry, grew up with parents who farmed in Iowa. He was told that if he studied accounting, he could make good money. Twenty years later, he is now considering a career in the arts and realized he never had an interest in accounting. Another unhappy adult with whom I worked started off in college in pre-med. She was also interested in architecture but her parents told her, “medicine will get you further.”

So what can we do with our high school students to encourage their success?

Spend your money on understanding your child from the inside.

To get a better read of your child’s strengths and weaknesses, there are many assessments available, including some free online personality surveys.

Some high school college planning centers also have free assessments. What are your child’s innate abilities? What artistic or musical talents does he/she have? Is she more of a hands’ on person? How does your child learn? Problem-solve? Is she a risk-taker? What does she do in her free time?

Research reveals that people are the happiest when they are using their abilities and those who make good career choices explore a combination of abilities, skills, personality, values, and family of origin.

I am amazed the number of families that spend between $2000-$4000 on college trips, yet they know little about their child. It does no good to visit colleges until you know your child well. All the research proves that the “fit” is more important than anything else, but parents get sidetracked by popular schools. About 50% of Colorado students who go out of state come back to complete their college studies at Colorado schools.

Encourage studying abroad or taking time off before college. Parents whose children have deferred college or taken a year abroad tell me their children seem more focused, self-reliant, mature, and have a better idea of what they want in life. I’m amazed the number of parents that discourage taking freshmen year off–they are afraid their child will not return to school.

Listen to your child. A client revealed her daughter kept saying she wasn’t ready to go to college and didn’t want to go. The client insisted she go away to a private school, she lasted 1 week. If your child isn’t ready or prefers to take classes locally — encourage him and listen. A year of success and confidence at a local community or technical college can spur further positive changes.

Encourage your child to do career exploration through high school. Have your child talk to people in a field that interests them. If possible, have them do an internship in a place that attracts them. Having any mentor can also be very helpful.

Finding a college and field of study is an ongoing challenge. By taking the time, and encouraging your child to different options, he or she will find their true calling.