In our last post, we suggested that one question that your student should ask every semester is “Am I on track to graduate in four years?” If your student is not definitively able to answer this question for himself, he should find someone who can help him find the information that he needs to be able to evaluate whether he is on track. As a college parent, it is important that you encourage your student to ask the question and find the answer, but it is not your job to answer the question. With your encouragement, or perhaps insistence, your student needs to take ownership of his college career.
Asking the question, “Am I on track . . .” at least once each semester will help your student know how he is progressing. He’ll need to consider his progress in accomplishing required credits, completing all college requirements, completing requirements for his major, maintaining a satisfactory GPA, and completing any additional curricular or extracurricular college requirements.
If your student’s goal is to complete her degree in four years (and this goal may not be appropriate for all students), there are a few things that your student can do to help accomplish this goal. Of course, there are seldom guarantees, but you can help your student recognize the value of the following suggestions:
- Meet with your Academic Advisor regularly – at least once each semester. Advisors can help look at the big picture and examine the implications of some curricular decisions.
- Make a timely choice of major. “Timely” may vary by major. Some majors may require that students begin a path as early as the first semester of college, other majors may work as late as the end of sophomore year. It is important that your student find out when he should commit to a specific major.
- Make sure that you are ready for college level work. If there is an area of weakness, address the subject as early as possible. Consider tutoring or remedial classes if necessary.
- Consider using summer or winter intercession terms to make up for credits or get a head start.
- Work hard to maintain good grades and the required GPA.
- Keep careful track, either on paper or electronically, of requirements and when each has been completed. Check the list every term. Address areas of concern immediately.
- Recognize anything that may not make sense. Know the curriculum well enough to question advice that may not sound right. Think carefully about any degree audit – whether electronic or generated by a Registrar or advising office. Ask questions if something doesn’t seem appropriate.
- Commit to making a four year graduation a priority. Success is often determined by many small decisions and choices. Consider carefully the amount of time spent studying, whether or not a job makes sense while in school, how often you visit home or travel, class attendance, whether or not study abroad or an internship will affect progress. Measure each decision in light of a four year graduation goal.
Even if your student completes each of the above suggestions, there is no guarantee that he will graduate in four years. However, his chances will increase. If at any point, he finds that he is not on track, he will have time to anticipate and adjust. Keeping your lines of communication open with your student will help you to remind your student of what he needs to do to stay on track – and help him talk to you about his concerns if he is not.