Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Maneuvering Bureaucracy Important to College Success

If you were asked to name the most important academic skills your teenager should develop before college, you would probably name making good grades and learning study skills. Those indeed are important, but how does your teenager rate on following instructions, meeting deadlines, and asking questions? When your student heads off for university, he will not have you around to ask him if he has read his class requirements for the semester nor will you be there to push and urge him to speak with his history teacher over that paper he thought deserved a better grade. In college, your student will be on his own to understand and meeting university deadlines and expectations, to advocate for himself, to ask questions when he needs help, and to create and maintain a personal schedule that will ensure college success.

At college, students will need to follow university deadlines and expectations in order to move forward. Many a student has found himself going to summer school or an extra semester to fulfill a requirement that he somehow wasn't aware of, or found himself in the wrong semester for a sequence class, or discovered too late that he is missing paperwork or signatures needed for graduating.

Once at college, countless students slowly come to realize that the repeated directive, "pay attention and follow directions," they heard all through middle and high school actually is as important as the information they were required to learn. It is critical that students and parents understand that once in that institution known as college, the student will be responsible for administrative deadlines, requirements for completing an academic major and/or degree program, and financial arrangements and deadlines: all requirements toward college success.

Parents and students need to understand that there are differences between college academic advising and high school academic advising. In a Fall 2011 issue of Colorado State University's "Parents and Family" online newsletter, it states that high school counseling offices are "one-stop shops" for the students. High school counselors handle all counseling issues: academic, mental, and emotional, and they seek out students to manage their schedules and discuss future plans. In college, those services are separated, but the biggest difference is that the student is responsible for seeking out those services. As the newsletter states, "in the end, (college) students are responsible for doing what they need to do to graduate and for having adult-to-adult conversations with their faculty members to resolve issues or seek help."

To help prepare your teenager to pay attention to guidelines and follow through, gradually give them charge of their own calendars. Guide them through making time for schoolwork deadlines as well as extracurricular activities. Make your teenager responsible for meeting the deadlines for ordering a yearbook, signing up for a school trip, or applying for a summer job. After warning her that the deadline is approaching, let the consequences teach her what happens when you miss the cutoff. Then, by the time she is a senior, she will be better prepared to meet all the deadlines for high school graduation and for applying to college. Once at college, she will be successful in maneuvering college requirements.

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