Why College Students Drop Out and How to Prevent It

August 19th, 2016

BY VICTORIA KLOCHKOVA

Although school and college graduation rates have steadily been on the rise for the last hundred years or so, thousands of undergraduates drop out of college every year. This causes substantial financial losses to the colleges in question, let alone students themselves, who lose not just money, but time and self-assurance as well.

Why does it happen? And how can we prevent it? Let’s try to understand.

1.    Lack of Staff Support

Many college dropouts attribute their failure to graduate to the fact that they felt unsupported by the university staff. Contrary to what many of us may think, students do seem to place considerable importance on tutor-student relationship, and a failure to maintain it on a certain level means a substantial loss in a student’s confidence and efficiency. They start feeling lost in an enormous, faceless and impersonal organization that doesn’t care whether they pass or fail.

This, in turn, is caused by ever-growing number of students with there not being enough tutors to properly accommodate them. it may sound a bit vague, but there is only one way out of this issue – to increase tutor-student engagement, to provide students with support from their college, to increase the prominence of active learning as opposed to lecturing, to force students into active participation in their learning process rather than being passive recipients, thus making sure nobody is left out.

2.    Lack of Financial Support

Unsurprisingly, the percentage of dropout among disadvantaged students are considerably higher than among those coming from wealthier families: they are about twice as likely to drop out. The reason is, they don’t have access to the same resources and have to spend a lot of time working to just make the ends meet. This takes up time that could otherwise have been spent learning and, in the long run, many of them find themselves incapable of handling the stress and excessive workloads.

In this respect, increasing graduation rates should involve supporting struggling students. Not just by means of direct financial help, but through such things as health insurance, more flexible timetables for evening and weekend classes, and so on.

3.    College Feels like a Bad Fit

Oftentimes a student realizes too late that the college they and their parents have chosen isn’t a particularly good choice in their specific case. Each university has its own distinctive feel, approach to education and philosophy of life, and sometimes they just don’t coincide with the student’s values, making them feel out of place. Sadly, there is not much that can be done in this case – one can only recommend students to visit the campus several times, talking to the staff and students and so on before making a commitment – it can help avoid mistakes.

4.    Homesickness

Trivial as it may sound, but students, especially those who never experienced staying far away from home for too long, often feel homesick enough to actually abandon their studies. Perhaps not as a sole reason, but homesickness certainly contributes to high dropout rates. Again, nothing much can be done by a college to help this situation – other than try and create conditions that would allow students to feel at home.

5.    Uncertainty about the Course and Career Choice

For many students, college is a default option, decided for them by society and their parents. Therefore, they enroll for a course not because it is their choice, but of necessity, because their parent insisted or because they never considered another option. The problem is, such students often choose the course (or have it chosen for them) without having any personal inclination to study this particular discipline. Needless to say, they are far less motivated to complete their studies than those who know what they need and want. There is enough evidence to say that about a third of high school graduates are very uncertain about their college and career choice – and, as we know, the majority of dropouts happen during the first year.

Better orientation services and counseling can turn the tables in this respect.

Dropout rates are an old and ongoing problem that doesn’t have any simple solution. Only a complex approach encompassing all sides of academic life can change the situation – as well as lives of thousands of students.

About the author:

Victoria is a passionate entrepreneur and marketer. She runs a digital agency and writes for several blogs on the web. She loves sharing knowledge about innovation and technology!

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