September 12, 2011
First-6-weeks

Why the First 6 Weeks of School is So Important

Phew! Take a deep breath and congratulate yourself, your student has made it through the first few weeks of college classes. The semester started strong, but you may start to see signs that motivation is waning or disappearing altogether. Do you intervene?

It’s hard to believe, but the first few weeks of college can often make or break the rest of one’s college career. Higher education researchers have conducted numerous studies on retention efforts and their effect on students. This research has been used for years by college administrators, and highlights some of the reasons students may not stay in school after the first six weeks.

Academic rigor

Research has shown that students who value their learning will remain at the institution. Is your student engaged in their classes? Are they getting along with their instructors?

A method that has been successful at improving student success is the formation of  “learning communities.” Learning communities have the same students register for two or more courses, forming a sort of study team. Each course is taught by a different instructor and they are paired around a common topic or theme. For example, composition paired with public speaking or accounting with intro to business.

Fit

Is it the right school for the student? Does it have the major or certificate they want? Classes that interest them? Feeling like you belong is a huge retention factor, so be sure to talk to students to make sure they are feeling supported on campus.

Goals

Most students enter college with just a small notion of what it is they want to do or study. They should be taking a class each semester that is exciting and interesting to them, and exploring different options each semester as they find their passion. Many community college students come already knowing where it is they want to transfer to, or the technical skill they need to acquire, so it’s important for them to know how Front Range can help them get there.

Finances

Some students leave as a result of inadequate finances, however, this is usually only a small piece of the decision to leave school. Be sure to check out different scholarship websites like fastweb.com and scholarship.com to look at different ways to pay for school.

Involvement

Students can make significant contacts through involvement on campus or with classmates, and as such, connect and value their education much more. Students learn more the more they are involved in both academic and social experiences at the college. Encourage them to join a club, host a study group on campus with friends from classes, or work out at the gym during breaks in between classes.

Outside commitments

Life happens outside of school. If a student needs to take some time to figure out whether or not school is right for them at this moment in time, they should do it. If they are not ready to put the full effort necessary to be successful in their studies, school will always be there when they are ready.

With strong support networks, the transition from high school to college does not have to be daunting. Engage your student in conversation about what they are learning in their classes and their goals over the next few years. In the long run, it can help a student make a decision that is right for them about staying in school.

What tips do you have for helping a student stay in school?

 

About the author:

Colleen Toomey is a career counselor in the Career Success Center at Front Range Community College, Westminster Campus. She can often be found exploring and getting lost in the Colorado outdoors and cheering for her hometown San Francisco Giants.

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