Why Do Some Individuals Fail College Despite Superior IQ and High School GPA?
The Only Way Out
My favorite tale of failing college is about a man I knew that did not want to refuse his parents' directive to attend Law School. His direct refusal would be hurtful and a loss of face - a bigger loss of face than trying and failing.
This man did not want to become a lawyer, so he devised a plan that would be his escape. He entered law school and purposely failed during the first year. He then entered the military and was very successful there. In fact, he became a valued member of the squad of bodyguards available to his nation's president. No harm came to the president and his family while this individual served.
This story illustrates one reason that intelligent, academically successful people fail in college: They do not want to attend college or are in a degree program that does not suit their talents and needs.
How many people do we as a nation in America force into college, when they would rather be elsewhere? By force, I mean pressure applied by high school teachers and counselors , by parents and tradition , by media advertisement , and by government statistics that show increased earning for college grads.
Even some of the free tuition programs brought forth under Stimulus Funding 2008 - 2010 (University of Toledo, Ohio is one) caused some people to enter college and fail - it was just something to do or to try at the time, but not a thought-out plan.
This occurred under the Clinton Administration as well. with community colleges in Central Ohio offering one free year of tuition to any local resident. Some people succeeded, others did not, and for many it was simply a lark.
Sensible Top 10 Reasons for Postsecondary Academic Failure
The University of Alabama, The Ohio State University, and several other postsecondary schools recognize a Top 10 List of reasons college students often fail. I saw the same reasons operate among GED students and Work Readiness clients in adult programs.
Top 10 List for Failures
- Lack of adequate high school preparation. A number of American students need to attend remedial mathematics and English classes during their Freshman Year Many also have not learned to study effectively. In addition, despite efforts to close the Digital Divide between income levels in the USA, a portion of new college students possess inadequate skills and experience with digital technology.
- Misunderstanding the amount of work required in college classes. For example, in my foreign language classes in high school, I compared text books and curricula with those of the local university and found that 1 full year of the high school language class was covered in only1 quarter of college. Thus, 3 major college classes in a single quarter may equal three years of high school squeezed into 10 weeks. A Semester System allows a little more time.
- Too many other activities.In K-12, students often sign up for several after school activities that meet once or twice a week. If they do poorly at one of them, they simply forget about it and go on to the next one the next day. Sometimes they don't show up for weeks and the activity leader allows them back into an extracurricular sport anyway - and they do poorly and demoralize their teammates and themselves. Many schools and after school activities provide all students with a certificate of excellence, no matter how well or poorly they perform. This is a habit of lack of commitment and false reward. College requires a firm commitment at the top of the students' priority list. Major sports like college football and basketball often provide additional tutoring and guidance to the players.
- In adequate language skills. Some Freshman begin college without the ability to spell, write complete sentences, understand grammar, express themselves orally as well as in written form, and/or read college level materials. Critical thinking in language and in life is a major skill lacking in the beginning of studies for many college students as well as GED students, some job candidates, and many in the adult population of America. Voters especially must be able to analyze the news and political campaigns critically in order to choose the best candidates. They must recognize "spin" when they hear it or read it.
- Lack of responsibility. Some students come from a background in which their parents kept them on time and on task and/or provided a lot of benefits or "things" without the youth earning them. The youth did not develop a work ethic or sense of personal responsibility. Without that type of environment, some Freshmen sometimes dont accomplish very much. Other make it to Junior Year and fall apart and out of college.
- Lack of standards.Some college and GED students beginning college have not yet set a personal standard of quality in academics. They may turn in "just anything" and expect assignments to succeed. A group of GED students took a reading test for me and placed at 3rd grade level, because they just filled up answers on a punch card without reading questions. When I told them they had to go to a beginning readers' class downtown for at least 6 months, they all decided to take the test again and answer seriously. Some Freshmen type their first English paper with the abreviations used in digital texting and wonder why it comes back with an F grade. Standards need to be defined and students need to understand standards.
- 7. Lack of goals. Its more difficult to do the hard work needed to succeed in college if one has no idea why one is doing it. Personal goals for 1 year and 3 years into the future help a student to make sense of his or her effort in college. Students also can benefit from deciding what type of work they will be doing - hopefully their dream job.
- 8. Wrong major.Some students choose a major degree program without much thought or without any reason. Even those that analyze their needs and talents may go through at least 2 majors before they find the appropriate path tp follow in school. College costs a lot of money and takes a lot of work, so choosing and planning a major course of study is vital. This comes home more quickly more often to students that are paying their own way through college and to US military veterans that have fought for the privilege of attendance.
- 9. Wrong college or university. Students are individuals that do not all succeed at the same school. Campus and student population size make a difference. For some students, a residential college (sometimes based on an academic major) in which students and faculty live in a community on campus are best - some of these prohibit smoking and alcohol, and that may suit some students best. An inappropriate environment of any kind can hinder academic performance and personal growth.
- 10. Psychological adjustments and conditions. I avoid labels in psychology; however, the usual college years of late teens to early 20s is a time of further development for each college student. Problems can occur that are unexpected or may become a heavy burden: classroom situations, romantic breakups, all sorts of things. Students can become tired and anxious in college and sometimes even a little depressed. Colleges and universities have counseling offices that can be of great benefit to students making these types of adjustments. I saw a counselor myself during a time in which I was stalked by another student and the first session was a tremendous relief. It should be noted, though, that schizophrenia often manifests for the first time during these ages - another reason that the college counseling office can be a benefit.
Please list other reasons you know for college failure below in the Comments Section, along with your experiences and ideas. Thanks!
© 2011 Patty Inglish MS