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Why You Can’t Finish Your College

What’s most amazing is that few college students seem to learn from those who have struggled and failed before them. It’s repeated year after year.

Yes, some drop away for financial, health and family reasons. Some are homesick or have conflicts with work. The majority, however, leave for very similar reasons.

From many years of working with college and university students, here are 10 of the most common reasons I’ve seen why students don’t make it through their freshman year, 10 solid indicators how to give it your best effort so you’re not one of the dropouts.

Study Skills

How to read a textbook. How to take notes in class. How to figure out what instructors really want. Don’t wait for your first failure notice. Get help early. Attend Student Success events. Develop study skills from Day One.

Substandard Management Skills

Lack of time and project management skills can kill a student’s best intentions. Looking forward towards deadlines, making a plan, and then working it, all take practice. Every time you step into a classroom or log online for a class, your academic priorities may change. Then, your plan has to be adjusted. That takes a management skill some students do not possess. Build yours up!

Anaemic Self-Discipline

The demands of college means making choices that put academics first every day. It means putting other opportunities second, or third. That takes an almost unwavering focus on academic and career goals, in particular for part-time students and those who hold full-time jobs. You won’t do your best without it.

Managing Freedom Poorly

Being unable to appropriately handle the freedom of college life is a big cause of failure to graduate. Daily, there may be distractions and temptations not related to classroom expectations and academic goals. Online and face-to-face socializing frequently gets in the way of academic success. There may be an unending flow of invitations to do anything but study and attend to course requirements. Bad choices can be an epidemic among students.

Inappropriate Priorities

Some students believe their time in undergraduate school is an interlude between their life before and after college. Somehow, this time isn’t connected to real-world requirements for success. In between, it’s about partying and personal pleasure. Academically, that won’t work.

Academic Detachment

Failure to attend class regularly is a killer disconnection from academic reality. For instance, some students actually believe sleeping in is more important than attending a lecture or lab session. They think they can catch up by using someone else’s notes. That’s not realistic either. What part about “attending” college do you suppose they don’t get?

Avoiding Assistance

Too much freedom, too much fear, or a misunderstanding about what being “smart” includes for some students results in not asking for help early enough to make a positive difference in their academic performance. In the early weeks of a course, it’s wise to identify study partners, arrange for tutoring, or simply ask instructors for clarification for better understanding of course materials.

Misaligned Priorities

Lack of time and effort spent in studying may be part of the misunderstanding that college is just like high school. It’s not, and some students are shocked by that difference. Putting academic expectations first, before socializing or anything else, is essential.

Responsibility Avoidance

Taking personal responsibility for your education is an important foundational requirement for college success. Getting to know instructors, knowing classroom expectations, understanding and setting goals, and planning and setting deadlines are just some of what needs to be basic in your college life. Nobody else can do it for you.

Insufficient Motivation

There’s just not enough motivation for some students to succeed, not enough purpose and not enough direction. Maybe this comes from being in college simply to meet someone else’s expectations. Without it, the academic challenges can become an avoidable grind. And, it will show up early.

Thinking About Success in College

Learning, studying and successful test-taking are not done by some sort of natural osmosis, that is, being on campus, sitting in a classroom, carrying a book in your backpack or in the trunk of your car doesn’t equal college success. Paying tuition doesn’t mean that graduation is automatic. It’s not an entitlement. It all takes commitment, every day, day after day.

Study skills, self-management, and project management capabilities may be improved with training and practice. Motivation has to come from your head and your heart. All the other reasons for not making it in college can be summed up in a few words: motivation, maturity, and attitude. How about yours?