Professor Foss' cure for college dropouts

  • Article by: MAURA LERNER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 16, 2013 - 6:48 PM

 

The school year may only be a few weeks old. But a fair num­ber of col­lege fresh­men are get­ting ready to bail out.

A­bout 10 percent of stu­dents at pub­lic four-year col­leges quit be­fore their se­cond se­mes­ter, stud­ies show, and the drop­out rate is twice as high at two-year col­leges.

“These are pret­ty dra­mat­ic num­bers,” says Don­ald Foss, a Min­ne­so­ta na­tive and pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­o­gy at the University of Hous­ton. But he be­lieves that more stu­dents would stay in school if they knew how to avoid the most com­mon pit­falls.

Foss, who got his Ph.D. from the University of Min­ne­so­ta, is the au­thor of a new book: “Your Com­plete Guide to College Suc­cess.” In it, he out­lines the four top cate­go­ries that can trip up stu­dents — which he calls by the ac­ro­nym LAST.

L. Lone­li­ness and i­so­la­tion. “A huge num­ber of stu­dents do end up feel­ing iso­lat­ed and lone­ly when they come to col­lege,” he said. The so­lu­tion: “Step out­side their com­fort zone” and join a group or a club “to try to make friends quick­ly.” Find­ing that con­nec­tion can make a huge dif­fer­ence in stay­ing in school, he said.

A. Al­co­hol. Binge drink­ing is not just a health risk; it can sab­o­tage a col­lege ca­reer. Foss doesn’t preach ab­sti­nence, but says “over­in­dul­ging” leads to a vi­cious circle; stu­dents start doing poor­ly in class, and drink­ing more to blot out the bad news.

S. Study­ing. Most new col­lege stu­dents don’t have a clue a­bout how to study ef­fec­tive­ly, he said. It’s not just read­ing and high­light­ing para­graphs. The trick is to “to test your­self a lot,” drill your­self on what you know and don’t know. Use flashcards. As he puts it, it’s not en­ough to hum the tune. “You have to know the words.”

T. Time man­age­ment. When stu­dents learn they only have class 12 or 15 hours a week, he said, they say, “That’s a week? That sounds like a va­ca­tion.” His ad­vice: Book ev­er­y­thing on a com­mon cal­en­dar: not just dead­lines, but when they’re going to re­search and write the as­sign­ment. And do laun­dry. “Wow, the cal­en­dar starts to fill up quick.”

 

maura.lerner@startribune.com

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