Having taught at the college level for 25 years, I have seen many students drop out or be put on probation their first year of college, and “dematriculated,” at the end of their freshman year. This series of articles is meant to show parents the signs that their son or daughter is not ready for college yet. During those 25 years, my main responsibility was to teach Freshman Composition, so I may know more about your young adults, in terms of probable educational success, than their parents do. In part two, I discuss four red flags that show some social and organizational unpreparedness.
The second most common reason, for students to not be successful in their freshman year and end up failing out or dropping out, is a lack of social skills and organizational skills needed to make friends, or interact with teachers and counselors in a professional manner. Assess your child for their social, time management, and materials organization skills. Here are some red flags that they are not ready:
- 1. They are painfully shy. I have seen young people like this, who are too shy to ask a question in class or make friends with their roommates. They are so shy that they cannot speak up to get clarification for an assignment, either from the professor or a classmate. In their dorms, this may come across not as shyness, but it may look like sullenness, snobbery, or something more sinister, in terms of antisocial behavior, to the roommates or suite-mates. If this sounds like your child, find ways now to get them more socially involved and build their confidence in social situations so they can BE ready to go to college next year.
- 2. They stay up all night and sleep all day. First of all, that means they are not attending their high school classes. That means they are not doing well now, so what makes anyone think that will change when they arrive at the university? No one there is going to get your child out of bed, or check on them, if they don’t attend classes for extended periods of time. The professors and staff are not parents in your absence. Chances are your child has some underlying physical, social, or personal issue that’s causing this antisocial behavior. If you can get them straightened around, it may not be too late to get them ready for college next fall, provided they don’t have other issues combined with this one. I have had many students fail their classes simply because they cannot get out of bed to attend.
- 3. They resist trying new experiences. College is a HUGE change in a child’s life. If your young adult is never eager to try new things, going to the university may not be for them. This kind of student is resistant to new ideas and will not be receptive to what the professors are trying to teach them. In teaching students how to write for academia and for other professional situations, I had a struggle with some students who resisted learning to write in third person. They wanted to always use first person “I,” or second person, “you.” While both are appropriate in some writing situations, for most academic papers, they are not. Imagine it’s your son or daughter, telling their professor, “That is just how I write, and if you don’t like it, go ahead and flunk me.” Not only is this impolite and aggressive behavior, it shows a resistance to learning new ideas and new ways of doing things. If this is the case, your young adult is not college ready, since they are not accepting of new challenges and ideas.
- 4. They have time-management issues and materials organization issues. It is basic human nature to procrastinate, or lose things, but this goes beyond normal parameters for procrastination. This is the kid who never gets anywhere on time, and can’t ever find his keys, cell phone, books, lunch, hat, coat, and more. If this sounds like your child, you will need to work with them to make sure they are more ready for college than they are now.
- Managing their lessons, their schedule, and their possessions well, are all necessary for these life and social skills. If they can’t do these things now, with your help, how are they ever going to be able to keep track of where they are supposed to be in any hour of any day? I have had students in mid-semester, who wandered into my classroom, and wondered why their teacher is not there. They are still not on top of their schedules and they are likely on the road to freshman year failure. This child will drive professors and their roommates crazy because none of them want the responsibility of organizing an immature adult.
Taken together with other factors, such as not having a goal, these four things may point to a young adult who is still more child than adult. You can work to get them ready, or you can insist they sit out a year until they are more ready. College is an expensive experiment for parents whose children are not adult enough to handle the social stresses and responsibilities of college. Make sure your child is ready and can be successful when they do end up going to college, or find an alternative to college that you and your child can agree is best.