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What Causes High Drop Out Rates? The Answer May Surprise You…

College dropout

What Causes High Drop Out Rates? The Answer May Surprise You…

Although colleges and universities continue to intensify their efforts to retain and graduate students, all but the most selective institutions suffer alarming dropout rates.  Some, in fact, graduate fewer than half of every entering freshman class.

There has been a lot of research done on which students drop out of college and which persist, with the emphasis on identifying the differentiating characteristics of those in each group.   As you might guess, students who achieved highly while taking challenging courses in high school were most apt to enjoy academic success in college.  Next were students with relatively high ACT or SAT scores. In some instances, individual colleges have identified high schools which produce students who are more likely to earn a degree than their college classmates.

At many colleges and universities it is not unusual for persistence levels to vary significantly for students in different majors. Studies have found that students who work more than 20 hours a week are far more likely to drop out than their classmates. And, as every college enrollment manager knows, although non-traditional students often take longer to earn a degree, their odds of doing so are greater than their younger, and often less focused, classmates.

Among the demonstrable reasons for their success is the fact that, however busy they may be with professional and family responsibilities, non-traditional students virtually never cut classes. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of students who begin college immediately after high school graduation.

In fact, too many students, especially freshman, feel it is no big deal to cut a class if they’re a little tired, and/or they are not inspired by a professor.  The truth, however, is that cuts are among the leading “killers” of college students.  But, instead of talking about how cutting classes can lead to poor academic performance, let’s look at a real life story about how attending classes religiously helped a mediocre high school student earn nearly a 4.0 GPA in college.

Richard B graduated from a pretty good suburban high school.  He carried a fairly challenging course load in high school, but because he was a “C” student, he was not encouraged to take honors or AP courses.  Richard’s SAT scores were a little above the national average of college-bound students but below the average of his high school classmates.  That’s why the people who knew him were not surprised that the most selective university which admitted him required him to complete a summer qualifying program successfully before allowing him to enroll in the subsequent fall semester.

What did surprise everyone was that Richard sailed through the summer qualifier program with four A’s. And, they were more surprised when Richard earned 9 A’s and 1 B (in calculus) during his freshman year.  After that, it was the infrequent B that surprised everyone. Richard’s formula for academic success wasn’t much different from those of most high-achieving students, but there was one major difference.  Richard would not miss a class under any circumstances.  Not a late afternoon Friday class, not an early morning class after a late night, not a class just before a vacation, not a class taught by a boring professor, and not a class on a day on which Richard didn’t feel well.

Richard took great notes and carefully revised them between classes.  He used highlighters to emphasize the information his professors stressed in class and he frequently made note of how much time a professor spent talking about a subject.

As a result, Richard was able to predict, with a very high degree of accuracy, what subjects were (and was were not) going to carry major weight on exams.  Interestingly, because Richard never missed a class and took terrific notes, he actually spent less time preparing for exams than even his classmates who earned mediocre grades.  That’s because his notes summarized the material and indicated the areas on which he should focus his test preparation efforts. He couldn’t prove it, but Richard swore that his class attendance was a tip factor in his earning and A when his average was near the A/B borderline.

The way Richard calculated things, he expended less time and effort than most students who earned lower grades.  Best of all, he learned the material his professors deemed most important, so he took more than just good grades from all of his classes. The bottom line is that everything flows from consistent class attendance.  So, if you want to ensure that you leave college with a diploma and a good education, keep that in mind. In your freshman year especially, “cuts kill” is a great mantra.