Having worked with many thousands of students at – and beyond – many colleges and universities both in the United Kingdom and more internationally, I have seen at first hand many of the most common problems that students experience and also been involved in their resolution so I feel that I am able to provide some comment here.Therefore, in this article I am going to now look to provide you with guidance on some of the areas where the most common problems have arisen for students studying at college and/or university and as to how these problems may be resolved. This is because it is an inescapeable fact that studying at college or university in modern time can be both a daunting and fun period in your life that has only been exacerbated by the current world’s economic problems that are being experienced internationally in almost every country.As a result it is perhaps little wonder that money and issues of finance are a central concernt to students. This is because almost all students are constantly lacking funds and have to find ways to finance their housing, nutrition and – of course – their entertainment. Therefore, it cannot be overstated that there is a need for students now more than ever to look to work to a budget and plan what you are going to do with your money throughout the whole academic year – you may also find that getting a part-time job will help so go to your college or university’s employment bureau and see what they can offer you.Another common problem – those of us who experience the dreaded ‘Clearing System’ will know just how bad that this can be! – is with getting on the course you want in the first place at your chose college or university. There is a need to appreciated that the more popular your course is with students like you, the more difficult and competitive you will find it to get a place studying that subject. Therefore, you need to look to make your decisions and sign up for the course that you want to have a place on as quickly as you possibly can to stand a better chances AND also look to have a back-up second choice subject or institution in mind where you may experience trouble.There is also a need to make sure that you have the time to work AND study both on your course and as part of your homework – these problems are then only further exacerbated where there is a need to work to make ends meet. As a result, this often means cramming in a lot of studying in a short period of time. You can help yourself by planning your time carefully so that you have time to go to classes, study AND work so that you can meet all of your deadlines in both your personal and academic lives so that you are then able to get the results that you are seekingClasses can also be difficult in practice where your teachers/professors arrogance or own self-importance affects a student’s professional relationship with their professor or their actual grades. As a result, unfortunately, worst case scenario there is often a need to bite your tongue and do some ‘sucking up’ big style in order to retain a good working relationship that allows you to achieve the results that you need. Of course there are many, many great teachers who will bend over backwards to help you in any way that they can, but there are also others who have become tainted by the profession and do not get the same enjoyment that they once did.Now we shall get to another significant problem – drugs and alcohol.The unfortunate reality is that, in college and/or university, however much effort is put in by the institution’s administration to limit their availability, drugs and alcohol are also a common problem as they are everywhere. Matters are then also not helped by the fact that since students at college and university are adults they often take full advantage to the detriment of their studies, social life, and health. Therefore, you must look to avoid temptation because students have died of drug overdoses or alcohol poisoning so you need to get help as soon as possible where you think that you need it since the consequences can be dire.Similarly, there is also a need to be aware of the dreaded hormones . . .This is because whilst colleges and universities (as well as high schools) do their best to raise awareness of the potential for the spread of sexually transmitted diseases/sexually transmitted infections (STDs/STIs) and unwanted pregnancy, responsibility rests on the individual. Therefore, the easiest piece of advice I can give you is to take precautions (e.g. condoms, the pill, etc . . .) and, if there are none available, just DO NOT do it!!
While I was in my second semester as a freshman at Northwest University, a Christian college in Kirkland, Washington, I was still getting accustomed to my first taste of a number of new experiences: selecting and registering for courses, juggling a heavy workload, communicating with my professors outside of classes, putting the new names to the new faces of my peers, and the like. Up to that point, I had heard a handful of individual stories about what brought several of my peers to the university, but I had to take a closer look at my own story, to reflect on the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual journey that led me to college, in order to better determine how I could make the most of my collegiate experience. The core of what I learned then, and what I am continuing to learn, carries the very essence of what the Spirit of God is saying to His scholars of various kinds in the earth realm today.Considering my past struggles in school, it is actually a miracle that I have even made it to college. During my years in elementary school, my parents were always willing to help me and my siblings with our homework, making sure that we completed our assignments, keeping close tabs on the grades we were earning. Therefore, it was a matter of course that I listened in class and turned in all of my work, but I did not start paying careful attention to my grades for myself until I entered the sixth grade. Seeing the trend of high marks that regularly showed up on my assignments and report cards, I found that I rather liked earning excellent grades. My classmates deemed me to be a smart girl, which I liked as well, but I also felt stigmatized by the edge and the tone that accompanied many of their assessments of me.
I was not thought to be particularly “cool” or pretty. I was shy, I wore glasses, and I did not dress in the trendiest styles of clothing, all of which added to the developing stigma that I felt, along with the fact that I was very slim, physically. I had perfect class attendance and never got in any trouble at school, but it was not considered exactly cool to be well-behaved, which contributed to the stigma even further. So, in a nutshell, my peers dubbed me as a smart, shy, four-eyed, skinny, goodie-two-shoes. In a word, they said I was a “nerd.”I carried the “nerd” label with me into my middle school years. I continued to earn very good grades, managing to finish much of my homework before I left school for the day, so I usually had a lot of free time when I got home. As I was still shy and did not have friends outside of school, I spent a vast majority of my free time reading books and watching television. On any given afternoon and into the evening, I could either read for about six straight hours, or watch television for about six straight hours, as both activities gave me a sort of escape: if I was lost in a book or lost in television, absorbed in my imagination, I did not have to think about the fact that other kids said I was a nerd.By the time I reached high school, the pressure of the stigma subtly changed. I was no longer called a nerd; I was just “smart.” To many of my peers, I was basically “that one smart girl with the glasses.” Academically, I always ranked within the top ten students in my class, sometimes even within the top three or four, because I was “smart.” I started taking Advanced Placement courses and tests, since I was “smart.” I would never be the most popular or well-liked person on campus, but I sure was “smart.” I was too shy to join any groups or clubs in school, or to try out for any sports or talent shows, but I was still “smart.” I did not go to school dances or anything of the kind; surely those events were not for “smart” people. Even though I was growing stronger in my Christian walk and had become quite involved in the large youth group at my church, that was where my involvement stopped–at church. At school, being “smart” was all I had, and so I became like a robot, handling my studies rather religiously, even while I slowly, and almost unconsciously, began to resent what had become my religion of scholastics.Harboring the fear that I would never make it in the adult world if I did not go straight to college after high school, I took my SATs and starting filling out college applications my senior year: robotically, religiously, and resentfully going with the academic flow. After all, I inwardly, automatically felt that if I was not “smart,” I was not anything; and if I was not anything, the unknown world after high school would swallow me up, leaving me unsuccessful, penniless, and alone. So, it did not at all make sense to me when, during my senior year, I felt the Holy Spirit urging me to put down the college brochures and to stop sending for applications. The Spirit essentially blocked me from doing what the all of the other seniors with good grades seemed to be doing, and so while my peers began to receive acceptance letters from different colleges and universities, I became more fearful of a future that I could not see or control, and therefore sunk deeper into my resentment.I wanted to drop out of school. At home, I sometimes raged or sobbed over my homework assignments before I went back to school to turn them in and to bitterly collect my customary high scores. I would receive academic recognition and certificates at school award assemblies, and would then come home and throw those awards in the garbage. Towards the end of the school year, I was invited to a special luncheon for being one of the top ten academic seniors; instead of going to the luncheon, I went home. Instead of going to my high school graduation, I stayed home. A few days after the graduation, I went up to the school’s main office, had the secretary give me my diploma, and I went back home.Not long after this, I confided my resentful feelings to my mother, and I then felt freer to do whatever the Holy Spirit led me to do. Over the next few years, I spent a great deal of time praying, fasting, and studying the Word of God. It was during one of my fasting times that the Spirit pointed something important out to me: I had never thanked God for bringing me through thirteen years of school (including kindergarten.) It was actually God’s mercy that had kept me from becoming a high school dropout, His grace that had allowed me to stick it out until I received my diploma, with good grades to back it up. So, I repented, thanking God for the years of school He had helped me to get through.I became even more involved at the church I was attending, and as I had grown close to a group of young people who were also seeking after the Lord, the many enjoyable hours that I spent with them usually led to discussions about the Word or impromptu praise or prayer sessions. It was during these years of growing closer to God and to Godly people that the Spirit began to give me a more accurate view of myself. I was intelligent. I was likable. I was passionate. I was a gifted intercessor. I was a talented writer. I was a number of things that I had never thought or acknowledged that I could ever truly be. The truth be told, I was even attractive–slimness and glasses and all.I gratefully began to see why God had not allowed me to go straight from high school to college. Had I done so, I would have gone as a robot, resentfully carrying out my scholastic religion with little more than a fear of future poverty to keep me going. I would not have taken the time to learn more about who I am in Christ if God had not disrupted my plans to rush off to a university, if He had not drawn me into a closer relationship with Him so that I could better recognize His voice, discover His character, and gain a deeper understanding of His Kingdom.So, six years after I graduated high school, I again applied for college, getting accepted into the only school I applied for, which just happened to be the only school I had any desire to apply for: Northwest University. All through the application, acceptance, and preparation process for school, I could see God’s hand at work. However, I must admit that my arrival in college hit me like a slap in the face. After being out of school for six years and having never experienced a college workload, I felt overwhelmed by the amount of reading and research that was required, and began to fall behind in my studies. I was unaccustomed to driving so much, constantly feeling exhausted on my commutes to and from school, sitting in traffic, often spending nearly an hour in the car early in the morning, and another hour in the car late in the afternoon. Sometimes I would get so busy studying that I would forget to eat, the resulting ache in my head serving as my reminder to put something into my stomach. The fact that my body was not getting as much sleep as it had been accustomed to getting over the past few years did nothing to alleviate my headaches. I became so worn out that I felt like abandoning ship that first semester.Yet, I could not, and will not, give up. I know that God has sent me to college to infiltrate the educational arena of the marketplace with the counterculture of His Kingdom, and so I have determined to make the most of this time in my life. I now know that I am likable, so I am careful to make eye contact with and to smile at my peers, pressing past my shyness to begin forming relationships. Although I never had the courage to audition for talent shows in elementary, middle, or high school, I now know how passionate I am, so I participated in the talent show at my university both my freshman and sophomore years, standing alone on stage in front of a jam-packed chapel full of students and faculty, expressing my passion through my original spoken word pieces, and actually winning the talent show my second year. Although I had never joined any school groups or clubs before, I now know that I am a gifted intercessor, so I became a part of the university prayer team. I now know that I am attractive, so I dress nicely for school, wearing heels and makeup every day, walking with my head up and my shoulders back–as much as my heavy backpack will allow. I now know that I am a talented writer, so I work hard on my school papers, finding ways to insert Kingdom principles into my writing. I know that I am intelligent, so I keep at my studies for my classes, so that my grades might properly reflect the intellect that God has graced me with. Even though I had cynically shunned academic recognition my senior year in high school, when I was invited to a reception for making it onto the Dean’s list in my first semester in college, I went and took my place at the reception, accepting applause and helping myself to a delicious slice of cheesecake.However, in the midst of my studies, especially during the initial frenzy that hit me like a slap in the face, the temptation has been for me to climb back into the role of just being “smart”: to grow resentful over the difficult work and to go through the robotic, religious motions of completing my assignments, with the sole goals of getting good grades and getting everything over with.Yet, on one particular afternoon during my sophomore year, I told the Lord, “I don’t want to be a smart girl anymore. You never called me to be smart. You called me to be a genius. I don’t want to be the woman who gets good grades. I want to be the woman who works her genius. I want my completed assignments and papers to be masterpieces of genius. I want my ministry on campus to come from the place of my genius. I believe that if I seek first Your Kingdom and Your righteousness by working my genius in order to infiltrate the educational arena of the marketplace with Your culture, then all these other things, like good grades, will simply be added unto me.”It was not really me praying this prayer, but the Holy Spirit praying through me, back to God; the Lord was essentially speaking His Word, for His Kingdom scholars on earth, back to Himself. He wants all of His academic Kingdom citizens–from preschool to graduate school, home school to medical school, Sunday school to seminary–to make the most of their studies and their educational experiences by learning to work their genius. Just as the Holy Spirit gave me a more accurate view of who I am in Christ, God wants His people to allow His Spirit, Who leads us into all truth, to show us the truth about ourselves. (John 16:13) He wants to show us the truth about the treasure, the genius, that He has placed in earthen vessels, on the inside of us. (II Corinthians 4:6, 7)Indeed, my journey to college has been quite an intellectual, emotional, and spiritual struggle. Yet, knowing that each day in college is, for me, a miracle telling of the faithfulness, mercy, and grace of God, I can confidently say that I am not a nerd. I am not “smart.” I am not a religious, resentful robot. Rather, I am likable. I am passionate. I am an intercessor. I am a writer. I am attractive. I am intelligent.I am a genius.
College student retention is always on the forefront of the minds of college student advisors, deans, and administrators. Rightfully so, because without college students, colleges and universities cease to exist and the advisors and deans are without a job.Therefore retention and academic success is hugely important to ensure the success of a college or university. As a former college student and lifelong learner who frequents college campuses speaking on this topic and occasionally taking some professional development coursework myself, I have observed and come to know a few reasons why colleges fail at retention and why college students become discouraged and leave college.1. College students are tolerated rather than celebrated.When the higher-ups in a college take a hierarchical approach to education and treat students like they are beneath them, students feel alienated and become disgruntled. Nobody likes to be mistreated, particularly college students paying high fees to attend a college.When bureaucrats within college administration, the transcript office, and the student union treat college students disrespectfully rather than serving them gladly, it frustrates college students and tells them the college or university does not care about them.When colleges treat their students like another number, eventually students opt for a different approach to pursue their career. Students like to be respected too and not made to stand in line excessively to collect documents, books, parking decals and trivial things that to them are meaningless.2. College students get angry at being nickled and dimed by colleges.College students quite frankly don’t like paying high tuition fees to attend college, only to later by charged for parking, and than get ticketed for parking in the wrong place when they were running late to class and there was inadequate parking to begin with.Let’s face the facts. Professors themselves on many college campuses have a hard time finding a place to park. Yet colleges continue to profit by issuing parking tickets. Making students pay $50 to $100 a semester to park is bad enough. Colleges run their parking lots like Disney World, Sea World, and Universal Studios in Orlando, profiting handsomely along the way.Even worse is when the college intentionally and purposefully pursues issuing parking tickets night and day to collect more revenue for the college. Robbing Peter (or your college students who are already challenged financially) to pay Paul (this being the college) doesn’t endear college students to the academic institution and university. On the contrary, it makes the burning mad and eventually mad enough to consider attending college elsewhere.3. College students get demoralized when they approach their professor for help and the professor doesn’t give them the time of day, nor an adequate explanation for their problem.Professors at colleges and universities just working to further their career, collect a paycheck, and publish their latest dissertation or book who don’t give students the time of day leave students feeling demoralized when they are struggling with a class.Class assignments and college level material comes easier for some students than others. Therefore when a student is struggling and needs some additional time or help, the professor should make himself or herself available to help the student.Unfortunately many times nowadays college professors just want to communicate via email, that is if they even check their email and reply in time to help the struggling student and answer their questions. Online forums are another method by which professors try to punt and shun students in need of help.What colleges fail to realize however is students go to college for hands on instruction and interaction with professors, not to be alienated through an online course or partial net based course that keeps professors and college students at arms length.4. Financial challenges and constraints cause students to withdraw from college.Colleges aren’t free and students cannot always obtain financial aid. Scholarships are wonderful if a student can get one to go to college, but many students are forced to work a part-time job to survive financially and put themselves through college.I know I worked a part-time job to put myself through college and rode a bicycle to and from school and work. The sacrifices I made to complete my college education were many.With the current economic downturn and rising unemployment level, many college students are being laid off from part-time jobs and struggling financially to sustain themselves and pay for their college education.5. Students withdraw from college when they don’t feel socially connected.A solid social life wherein a student feels connected to other students on his or her college campus is vital to ensure their success. Emotional support and the comradery of friends who understand them and their struggles empower students to persevere with their college education.When student advisors, deans, and college administration fail to account for and proactively facilitate the necessary social element that sustains students’ morale, they do themselves and their college a great disservice. Undeniably and undoubtedly, college students want to feel connected and a part of something larger than themselves. Yet it is not a connection to an academic institution per say that they desire as much as it is to their fellow students journeying with them through this season of college life.Successful colleges therefore don’t just suggest and make social activities and associations available for students, but proactively facilitate and incorporate this into their college’s approach to education early on. By doing so, successful colleges provide every student, including those more shy students with less social initiative the opportunity to be actively engaged and socially interact with other students. This opens the door for meaningful interaction, communication, and the establishing of meaningful friendships among college students on campus. Without such students just fall through the cracks socially, tend to become isolated, and often disappear as they become disillusioned with the whole college experience.These five reasons are the biggest reasons retention efforts among college students are not succeeding and students are withdrawing from college.The good news is students and professionals desire to attend college. Most of us value and uphold education. The struggles along the way en route to obtaining a college education and further professional development however when a student steps on a college campus can be irritating and downright frustrating.Retention coordinators and specialists on college campuses therefore need to urgently and wholeheartedly attend to these matters lest they be the next ones standing in the unemployment line, when college students walk out and say they have had enough.