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.”