Wednesday, 13 August 2014

How to ensure that First Year @ University is a success


Logic of Failure - Metaphysics of Success

Many universities are concerned about failure rates. It is not uncommon for 25% of students to fail to complete their first year successfully. 

Academics are mildy irritated that they are constantly under pressure from the management to improve success rates. Rather cruel responses might run like this:

" I'm sorry, it is really beyond my control if you break up with your girlfriend in week 3 and stop attending classes."

"Am I responsible if you lose the power of motion because you've been living on nothing but porridge oats for the last term before the exams, having spent your parents' money on beer."

"I can recommend counselling services. Remember ... you are now deemed to be an adult; you will be expected to take responsibility for your life. Time for a reality check?"

"Is it my problem if your only relationship effort went into your Xbox/Nintendo/ipad/SKY-tv ?"

The good news, however, is that the pass rates for second and third year are typically 95%.

On a more serious note, the most common reasons for dropping out or failing your first year are

inability to adjust to life away from the safety, ease and security of homelife
lack of independent revision skills
acquisition of a drink or drug habit
homesickness
a disastrous and traumatic first year relationship
pregnancy or serious illness
lack of motivated study, planning and work skills
failure to adapt to the new level of work expected in academia
lethargy, indolence, incompetence
doing a job full time rather than working on your degree
having made the wrong choice of location, or university
loneliness, depression, mental breakdown
starvation or malnutrition; inability to cook
failure to attend classes and exams
poverty, poor financial planning and bankruptcy
family bereavement or other crisis
not understanding the requirements of the degree syllabus
over-indulgence in leisure activities, especially solo

Play is a reward - not a replacement - for academic work achieved


Clearly there are both academic and socio-psychological-personal reasons for failure.

Students seldom drop out or fail because they are judged not to be brainy enough! Most hard-working students will have a very successful and enjoyable first year. So keep a sense of balance and maintain a sense of proportion. If you start to feel excessively pressured or anxious seek help early from tutors or from student services.

Generally the bar is set quite low in all but the most elite universities and in all but the most competitive subjects. In fact, you would be surprised how poor some of the academic work is that gains a pass. In my opinion some of it is GCSE standard. Having said that, will you be employable with a third class degree (=40%) ? By taking your first year seriously you establish strong skills that will be a firm foundation for your future progress.

The answer is probably yes if you have excelled in your extra-curricular activities and in your networking. I'm told that sport, volunteering and drama are recommended for character-building, confidence and leadership.

But there are also some other issues that require further explanation. 

For instance, across the US, the drop-out rate averages 25%, but you are twice as like to drop out if you are Hispanic, Black, or American Indian, compared to being a White student, research suggests. Why does this happen? 

 

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(2013) Also available on Kindle, or to download.