It seems like a no-brainer — the smartest kids are the ones who thrive in college. Right? Sometimes it works out that way, but not always. Admissions officers and counselors at colleges and universities nationwide have begun to take a closer look at what truly allows students to succeed, and what they’re finding is very interesting — and an argument against standardized test-based curricula and nights locked away studying.
The best indication of how a college student will perform overall in college is how well they do in their first year at the school, not in high school (The Guardian). Beginning college brings up a host of issues for students that have nothing to do with the classroom, including time management skills, dealing with roommates, and caring for themselves for the first time. These “soft skills” are often the difference between success and failure in college.
Many bright students have no idea how to tackle these social and personal issues, due to the rise of helicopter parenting and too much focus on academics and getting into a top school. They haven’t had the time to develop sophisticated social skills that will allow them to navigate the complex landscape of college. And the problem seems to get worse every year: think of the student who never learns how to do laundry, and brings it all home for his mother to do every weekend, or the graduate student who still doesn’t know how to cook and orders in every night. They may star academically, but how important are those accomplishments, compared to the basic life skills?
How we can help
How can we ensure that students are learning everything that they need to know, both inside and outside the classroom? If you’re a parent, make sure that you’re not doing everything for your child. He or she should know how to do laundry, cook basic food, and get themselves up in the morning. If you’re a teacher or administrator, push for life skills classes to be included in the curriculum at your school — a tough order, when budgets are being slashed left and right.
The first year experience
Many colleges and universities now require incoming freshman to participate in a program known as the first year experience (FYE). These programs tackle all the issues of college, academic and social, and help prepare freshmen for what lies ahead in their college career. Specific topics that FYEs usually cover include dealing with stress, homesickness, roommate problems, dating, alcohol, depression, and anything else that might trip a student up in his or her first year of college.
Although many FYE programs are very new, they seem to be effective. Students need to talk about and have guidance on the issues that really matter most and a lot of the time, that doesn’t mean academics. The best thing we can do to ensure that students eventually become productive, competent members of society is to acknowledge that these social issues need to be addressed, and to give the support and guidance that is required.
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