1 in 3 College Freshman Will Drop Out Before Their Sophomore Year. How Can We Do Better to Prepare Them?

Posted By Abby Perkins on August 31, 2015 at 11:50 am
1 in 3 College Freshman Will Drop Out Before Their Sophomore Year. How Can We Do Better to Prepare Them?

According to a recent U.S. News report, one in three freshmen will drop out of college before their sophomore year. This seems like a large number, considering the value that we, as a country, put on a college education. So – why does it happen?

GoodCall went behind the front lines with one high school teacher, who wanted to remain anonymous, to find out what’s being done, what’s missing and what needs to change to better prepare today’s high school students for college. He had the following insights:

1. Schools are focusing on graduation rates instead of actually preparing students for life beyond high school.

In many schools, there is an alarming lack of concern over college readiness. Until administrators stop competing for the highest graduation rates, attempt to get at the center of the issue, and have an honest and open dialogue around it, there may not be much improvement in this area.

Too many teachers are more concerned with the appearance of quality in education than the actual quality itself, which is inherently problematic. According to the U.S. Department of Education, high school graduation rates are at an all-time high, with 81% of students graduating from high school in 2013. However, there is a clear discrepancy between high school graduation rates and college completion rates – the U.S. has one of the lowest college completion rates in the world, and just over half of students who attend college finish their degree within six years.

2. Preparation is focused on getting into college, not how to succeed IN college. 

It’s a common trend for high schools to place too much emphasis on just getting to college, and not enough on what comes after that. For some students, college isn’t the means to their desired outcome, and it can result in a ton of unnecessary debt – either because they aren’t going for a necessary degree or because their degree isn’t in demand when it comes time to apply for jobs.

In general, students are unprepared because we don’t prepare them to be college students – we just prepare them to be accepted to college. Even in Advanced Placement classes in high schools, students are coddled when they should be taking more responsibility for their work, as they would in a real college course. Many students get to college and are lost without reminders and help with assignments. And while it’s great that teachers care, it would be helpful if they made more of an effort to simulate college courses, especially in higher-level high school classes.

3. High school counselors aren’t involved where college is concerned

Guidance counselors’ job descriptions have changed over the past few years, from helping students in the area of careers to handling testing material.  This is not their fault – testing has become increasingly emphasized, and budget cuts have taken testing coordinators’ positions at many schools. According to a 2012 study, standardized testing costs schools $1.7 billion a year.

In addition, many parents wish that the same counselor would guide their student all four years of his or her high school career and work with the student to find their best fit, whether that’s college or a career. Not every student is college material.

Abby Perkins
Email | Twitter | LinkedIn Abby Perkins attended Davidson College, where she graduated with a B.A. and Honors in English and wrote for The Davidsonian newspaper. Abby's work has been featured on Yahoo! Finance and Entrepreneur. As Managing Editor, Abby is a regular contributor to the GoodCall newsroom, covering education and financial aid.

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