School Dropout? Not My Child!

Never did I think any of my kids would drop out of college. It was not in my game plan for their lives.

I dodged a bullet. But plenty of my friends’ kids did drop out.

I’ve since learned that half of all college freshmen fail to graduate within six years!

Want to know why our kids drop out? Want to know what you can do to keep it from happening? It starts in high school…

#5 Homesickness and Isolation

College freshmen can get lonely—lonely for their friends and their family. They may not have the skills to make new friends. They are suddenly alone and afraid. This can be paralyzing for some students.

Maybe this is where the slogan “Keep Calm and Graduate” could come into play. Remember three simple words: DO NOT PANIC. It’s just part of the freshman year experience. Your children will eventually find their niche.

What can you do to help?

  • While in high school, send your child to camps or on extended trips away from the family to help your student be prepared for homesickness.
  • Stay connected to your student, especially during freshman year. Remember though that demanding too much connection can also prevent them from branching out and making new friends.
  • Sometimes a well-timed visit back home during first semester is all the student needs to cure the homesickness. They go back to school renewed and refreshed with Mom’s home cooked meal in their stomach.
  • Listen to your child, offer encouragement and options, but let them learn to find solutions to their problems. Some stress really is a natural part of the college experience.

#4 Academic Unpreparedness

Some students are simply unprepared for the demands of a college curriculum—even if they’ve done well in high school.

What can you do to help?

  • Assess your child during high school. Some parents help a little too much with homework assignments and projects. This actually harms the student their first year in college, as they are unprepared to handle their own homework assignments. Parents mean well, but it is vitally important for students by their senior year to be handing their own assignments.
  • Many schools offer study habit courses, test taking skills courses, and tutoring for high school students. There is no disgrace in signing your child up to take one. It will teach your child to seek out these same resources in college.
  • Procrastination runs rampant among students during freshman year when so much is new to them. Let them suffer the consequences of not turning in a paper on time in high school so they will learn from the experience before they get to college.

#3 Lack of Guidance

Students can easily become overwhelmed trying to decide on what subjects to take or selecting a major. While most colleges offer a student adviser to students, many students do not take advantage. And some college advisers don’t take their adviser role seriously, because it’s not their main job. It is not uncommon for students to stay in school long after the four years because of their inability to “find” themselves.

What can you do to help?

  • Have your student talk to their teachers independently (without you running interference) and when they are having issues with a class. This will help them greatly when they are in need of help and career guidance during college.
  • Help your student recognize when they’re not happy on their current academic path and make changes to take a different path. Again, listen to your student and offer them options instead of dictating solutions.

#2 Excessive Partying

Most parents think is the #1 reason students drop out. It’s actually only the #2 reason. Partying and freedom is a challenge to most students. It often takes several semesters for our students to reach a balance.

What can you do to help?

  • Prior to sending your student to college, have a serious conversation about their priority “job”: To go to college and get passing grades. They may indeed have fun while doing so, but make it clear and unequivocal that if they have too much play and not enough “work”, they will not have the option of continuing in college. And make sure to follow through on any threat, or they won’t take you seriously the next time.
  • Teach your student to take responsibility for their own actions. Sometimes this can be painful, but promoting an ownership mentality will help your child develop confidence and motivation.
  • Encourage your high school child to take a part time job during the summer or school year. It gives them the training they need to begin balancing work and play.

#1 Money

The cost of college today has skyrocketed. Many students and families today have incurred overwhelming student debt to attend college. In addition, many students are forced to work part time or full time to pay for their schooling.

What can you do to help?

  • Most parents are unable to pay for a child’s college without some assistance. Sit your child down during freshman year of high school and discuss what kind of financial commitment you will or will not be able to make. This will give your student time to consider the options available to them for an advanced education.
  • Educate your student about where to find scholarships and other types of financial aid.
  • Encourage your student to become “scholarship ready” during high school, whether through sports, academics or community volunteerism. This will open new avenues to afford college tuition.


College can be a fun time for both parents and students. High school sets the stage.

It was rewarding for me to watch my kids develop into adults. (And yes, it took some of them longer than others.) But they all grew up.

Be aware of the pitfalls many students face. It’s time to follow the old Boy Scout slogan “BE PREPARED.”


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