Information for the parents of college students
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Category — College Academics and Success

Should Your Student Consider a High School Post Grad Year?

Your student is about to graduate from high school, and she’s ready to head to college in the fall.  Congratulations!

But wait! What if only part of that statement is true?

Your student may be about to graduate from high school, but that doesn’t automatically mean that she’s ready to head to college in the fall. Not all students mature and operate on the same timetable. Not all students have an immediate interest in college. More and more students and their parents are considering a postgrad or fifth year of high school to prepare for college.

What is a high school post grad year?

A postgrad year does not mean that your student simply stays in her high school a year longer.  It is not a fifth year because your student has not done well and is not ready to graduate.  A postgrad high school year is a specialized year of school for students who have already earned their high school diploma.  It is most often a year of school spent at an independent high school with a specialized curriculum designed for the experience.

Postgrad experiences have been around for a long time.  They have traditionally existed at New England prep schools for male athletes who need an extra year to improve athletically and to bolster grades.  Recently, however, more schools offer postgrad experiences, more students are applying, including females and non-athletes. According to the Boarding School Review, as many as 146 schools now offer such programs.  A few schools offer day programs as well.

A postgrad program serves as a transitional year for a student to experience living on his own, away from home.  Programs are generally designed for academically strong, motivated students who want to experience new courses, challenges and personal growth.  Programs are often competitive, and schools look for students who have demonstrated academic growth throughout their high school careers and who have demonstrated a positive trend.  The postgrad year allows these students to build on their past experiences.

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April 24, 2017   No Comments

The Path To Graduation: Will Your College Student Graduate on Time?

Your student graduated from high school and headed off to college, and you are picturing that next Commencement ceremony in another four years.  Or perhaps your student has been in college for a year or two and you see that Commencement just around the corner.  When your student walks across that stage it will be a big moment, and you are anxious for the celebration – and the last tuition bill.

But there is a possibility that your student’s college Commencement may not be four years after high school graduation.  Although four years of college is still the norm at most elite private colleges, more and more students are completing their college education on an individual timeline. According to the U.S. Department of Education National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), the percentage of students who graduate in four years is approximately 36%.  The percentage who finish in six years is 57.5%. That means that some students may not graduate at all, and many students who do graduate may take significantly longer than four years to complete their education.  Five or six years of college is now becoming the norm for many students.

Objectively, we may hear these statistics and find them moderately interesting.  However, when it is our college student who may take more than four years to complete his college education, we may become not only very interested, but alarmed.  We may have seen this coming or we may be taken by surprise.  We may understand the reasons or we may not.  We may consider the reasons sensible or we may find them ridiculous.  We may take the news in stride or we may be angry and upset.

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April 17, 2017   No Comments

What Is a Degree Audit and Why Does It Matter?

Just as businesses conduct a financial audit to make sure their financial practices and reports are complete and accurate, college students should conduct a degree audit to make sure they are on track toward graduation.  Based on the results of their financial audit, businesses may make adjustments to their financial processes.  So, too, students, based on their degree audit, are in a better position to plan their degree completion.

Your college student should be tracking his own progress and course completion each semester, but just as many financial audits are conducted by objective, outside auditors, a degree audit should be conducted by the Registrar, Advising Office, or Academic Advisor at the college.

What is a degree audit?

A degree audit is an analysis of your student’s academic progress toward a degree.  It helps your student monitor where he is and what he still needs to do to complete his requirements.  A degree audit is an advising document that maps out degree requirements and compares them against your student’s transcript.  It is a vital tool for academic planning, course selection, and scheduling and should be used in conjunction with consultation with the student’s academic advisor.

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March 13, 2017   No Comments

Why You Need to Talk to Your College Student About Academic Integrity

Values, honesty, kindness, caring, work ethic.  We spend much of our children’s lives teaching them – overtly or through example – about the values that we hold dear.  It’s part of what raising a child is all about.

So by the time that our students reach college, we may assume that we’re done.  We’ve put in the work over the years to teach/show them what we believe and now they’re on their own to put it into practice. If they haven’t gotten it by now, there’s no use doing more talking.

While it’s true that we’ve been teaching and modeling values all through our children’s lives, it’s important – as your student heads to college – that you talk with him about academic integrity.  It matters, and your student’s college career could depend on a solid understanding of what it is, why it matters, and how to prevent getting into “integrity trouble.”

Where do you start?

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February 13, 2017   No Comments

Help Your Student Make Good Study Habits Stick

“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”

Jim Ryuh

January.  It’s the time of year for resolutions, new habits, and optimism that this year will be better than the last.  Thank goodness we all have an opportunity once each year for a reset.

For most students, the New Year not only provides the usual possibilities, it is often the start of a new semester as well.  This means a fresh start.  Even the best students often have plans to make this new semester even better than the last.

But unfortunately, we all know that most New Year’s resolutions often fall by the wayside a few months, weeks, days, or maybe even hours into the year.  We all have trouble making them stick, and students are no different.

An article on Headspace, an online meditation website, discussed ways to make meditation stick for those who were giving it a try.  Although we think meditation can be wonderful for students (and their parents,) this article is about how students can use the same principles that the Headspace article discussed to help them make new study habits stick.

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January 9, 2017   No Comments

College Officials Gather to Discuss College Parents

Yes, parents, colleges are talking about you.  In this age of constant communication between students and their parents, this age of increased parental involvement in many aspects of their students’ lives, and this age of growing concern over student success and persistence in college, institutions are continuing their quest to find ways to reach out to and engage the parents of college students.

This may sound strange as we hear so much about helicopter parents and snowplow parents.  Aren’t institutions trying to discourage parents, to get them to “let go?”  The answer is, “no.”  Colleges want parents to connect to the institution and to engage with the school – and with their students – in appropriate ways.  And they are realizing that parents may need help discovering how to do that.

This month, the Association of Higher Education Parent Program Professionals (AHEPPP) held its fifth annual conference in Boulder, Colorado.  Nearly 200 college personnel gathered to discuss the parent programming at their institutions.  Many of the individuals at the conference have as their sole job description working with the parents of students at their institutions.  So, parents, don’t think for a moment that your student’s institution doesn’t care about you – beyond your tuition dollars.

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November 21, 2016   No Comments

Is Your Student “Present” at College?

Distractions.  We’re surrounded by them in today’s world.  Children, students, adults: no one is immune to the constant bombardment and the temptation to try to go in many different directions at once.  We check our phones and social media, we send and receive texts, and we multitask. (How else would we ever get anything done?)  Some of us thrive on the energy – or at least we think we do.  Others lament the intrusion and wish we could shut the world out on occasion.  But whether we like it or not, we live in a distracted society.

What’s the problem?

The distractions we live with day to day can separate us from the present moment.  As we experience these distractions more and more, we lose, or at least weaken, our ability to be present now, where we find ourselves.  And although we all experience this separation, it can be even more of a problem for our college students.

For instance, several studies have indicated some alarming statistics about students and their phones. One study suggests that students check their phones on average every 11 minutes.  Another found that students check their phones 11.43 times each day while they are in class.  Still another study found that 40% of students said they would be incapable of going more than 10 minutes without checking their phones.  So clearly students are attached to their phones, to their social media, to their texts.  And in reality, so are many of their parents.

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November 14, 2016   No Comments

The Delicate Balance of Support and Self-Reliance

So much of the college experience is about balance.  Students work at learning to balance social life and studying, independence and responsibility, seriousness and frivolity.  As parents, it is sometimes difficult to watch as our students practice the skill of balance – and sometimes fail.  But just as we had to finally take the training wheels off and let go of the bicycle, we need to step back and watch as our students take off.

One of the balancing acts that many students struggle with, especially at the midpoint in a semester, is the balance between self-sufficiency and relying on others.  New college students, especially, may need to learn that being independent doesn’t necessarily mean they need to do everything alone.  Knowing when to rely on themselves and when to turn to others is part of responsible decision making.

Why wouldn’t my student ask for help if he needs it?

There are many reasons why students may not seek the help they need when they need it.

  • “I didn’t realize that I needed help.”
  • “I’ve never needed help before, why would I need it now?”
  • “Things will get better if I just wait long enough.”
  • “I’ll look as though I’m dumb if I ask for help.”
  • “Isn’t it cheating if I get help?”

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October 24, 2016   1 Comment

When a Little Something Can Make Graduation a Reality

College completion rates in the United States are not what they should be.  It is an important national conversation.  According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, the percentage of students who began college and completed a degree within six years is approximately 53%.  Just over half of those students who begin college finish – and that number is decreasing. It’s a growing problem and a growing national conversation.

Although we all need to be concerned about this number, and we all should part of that national conversation, if it is your student who can’t finish, knowing that there are many others also struggling isn’t much consolation. So although the big conversations and educational reforms are important, sometimes it is the small, personal actions that can make a difference.

More and more colleges and universities are recognizing that for many students, the barriers to completion- which may seem insurmountable at the time – are actually individual stumbling blocks that can be overcome with some help.  This is especially true for many first-generation and low-income students.  So schools are stepping in to help.

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October 3, 2016   No Comments

Does It Matter Who Is Teaching Your College Student?

Chances are good that your college student is being taught by, has been taught by, or will be taught by at least one, and probably several adjunct instructors.  Whether your student attends a local community college, a small liberal arts college, or a large public or private research university, adjunct instructors are the “new normal” in the world of higher education.

The work of adjunct instructors, part-time instructors, part-time lecturers, contingent instructors, or whatever other title is used, is an important and hotly debated topic in higher education today.  According to the Department of Education, over 70% of college instructors are adjunct professors (approximately 800,000 in the United States.)  This is up from 35% in 1975. Current issues of debate around the use of adjunct professors include working conditions, pay equity, student success, and the right to unionize.

The use of adjuncts in higher education is an important topic, and we urge parents and students to read some of the many articles available to understand the issues and to weigh in on the discussion.  Our concern in this article is how your student can get the most out of the classes that he will inevitably take with adjunct professors.

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September 5, 2016   No Comments