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 four, I discuss four red flags that show some basic personality and attitude issues that may show non-readiness for college.
The old aphorism, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink,” is true for college students. A young adult who is ready for college has good habits and attitudes, and if they don’t, they probably are not ready for college.
- 1. They don’t read, and they don’t like to read. This may be the biggest attitude red flag of all. There is hardly a course in college that does not involve some reading, and most courses are intense in the amount of reading a student has. Maybe your child got away with not reading in high school, but that will not be true in college. A primary difference between high school and college is that in high school, the teacher tells the student what the book says, but in college, the professor expects the student to tell her what the book said, so they can discuss, argue, and examine the materials more closely. The professor may add to the materials being discussed, but will not repeat what the students were supposed to have read. Not reading or refusing to read can quickly lead to failure, especially when so many of their writing assignments, such as term papers, are based on reading and research.
- 2. They aren’t doing their homework in high school. If this is their habit now, with the short high school assignments of a few problems or a page or two of writing, imagine how underprepared they are for the attitude adjustment they need in college. It is likely that in most classes, writing assignments and homework begin with the first day of class. Someone whose habit is to not do it now is not likely to change, no matter how much you are paying for them. Some years back, I had a student who said to me, “you don’t get it. I don’t like to write.” I said, “This is a writing class; if you don’t do the required writing, you fail.” He failed. Don’t wait for this outcome.
- 3. They hate teachers and they have anger management problems. I had a student who once said f*** you,” to me in class because of a direction I was giving the class. He had to go to the office of student life for discipline. I don’t think that student made it through his freshman year. His roommate was in the same class, and he told me that the student who had said that to me had been kicked out of his dorm room for fighting, stealing, and for having the police called on him several times. If your son or daughter has these kinds of problems, they are not yet mature enough or controlled enough to go to college.
- 4 You are sending them to college because they are causing problems at home. Be honest about this with yourself. Is that child ready for college? Have they developed drug and alcohol problems or have then been in trouble with the law? It’s obvious to all of us at college when we see troubled kids that they may not be up to the stresses of college. I have had many depressed, crying, and sometimes suicidal kids in my office over the years, with problems that had nothing to do with my class. I have talked at least a hundred students into counseling and made the appointments for them. Get them some help before sending them to college, so they can cope with stress and learn to control their behaviors.
- Some of the kids who have these red flags may not be ready for the university in a year or even five years. Try to find other avenues for these kids. If you have a non-reader, a vocational training program or vocational college may be the best solution. Chances are, that child is not reading for a reason, and part of the reason is that they may be better suited in a trade or vocation rather than one at a university. The military is a viable option, especially for kids with attitude problems. I have had some of these students, who years later, as adults in their late 20s and in their 30s or 40s, have learned how to manage themselves and they have become some of the best students I have had. It is amusing to me how the hard lessons of life seem to smooth the rough edges and bad attitudes out of people. Hopefully, that will be your young adult in ten to fifteen years, who has surmounted their problems and is ready to be a college student, even if by then, they must attend part-time and finance it themselves.