When parents talk among themselves about college for their kids, they often share the “big stuff”: the name and reputation of the school, its location, and the volumes of mail they receive after Junior takes the PSATs. But what about the little things, the important yet overlooked elements of earning a college degree that end up making a big difference?
I spoke recently with parents who were glad to discuss the lesser-known aspects of college attendance. We all agreed that, as important as college is, nobody wants to waste money as their child gets an education. So in order to maximize the college experience and minimize the stress, think about:
It is essential that students learn to form relationships with professors throughout their college career. When students make an effort to talk with professors outside of class, they are rewarded by receiving good information and the chance to develop a connection that can have lasting impact. Professors often help students untangle academic concerns such as what to major in or what courses might be taken. Yes, it can be a little scary for students to hunt down the professor at his or her office and speak with them. Yet professors are usually embedded in the life of the college; collectively their knowledge forms the backbone of the academic community. Plus, they have terrific networks!
After families recover from the sticker shock of what it will cost for their child to earn a degree, they can dig a little to find out about services on campus that are designed to help students achieve success. College life isn’t just about studying (or, um, partying).
The services and support systems in most places include intramural sports and wellness classes, peer support mechanisms, cultural centers, student activities and clubs, Residential Advisors in the dorms, and a counseling center– and that’s just one side of the house. On the more academic side we find math and writing centers, tutoring services, study or discussion groups, clubs in the major or academic department, advisors, service learning experiences, and study abroad. Most importantly, don’t forget career services!
The sad part about this list is that many students fail to take advantage of these services. Folks, that’s like leaving money on the table. So when you think about college, remember these incredibly helpful support mechanisms that can make a huge difference to student adjustment and college success.
When you get down to it, the math is simple. Students need 120 credits to complete a bachelor’s degree at most colleges, and an Associate’s is 60 credits. The majority of classes (excluding science classes or those with labs) carry 3 credits each. So students will need to complete an average of 15 credits (5 classes) per semester for each of four years. (Or they might add credits during a summer or winter term if their work schedules allow it.)
The problem is that the finer details regarding dropping and adding classes must be attended to. Yes, 12 credits is technically a “full time” course load, but it will not help accrue 30 credits. Financial aid and scholarship requirements will require that “satisfactory academic progress” be made; a student stands to lose money if there are credit deficits. So beware of credits and the rules surrounding drop/add on campus.
Thanks to Edie Steele for sharing this insightful article. Now in independent practice as a student coach, Edie’s advising abilities were honed at diverse U.S. colleges. Her Finish in Four goal (www.finishin4.org) is to help students avoid difficulties that add time (and debt) to earning their degrees. Edie gained expertise at the College of William and Mary in Virginia where she earned a Ph.D. in Educational Policy, Planning and Leadership. Her experience includes four years as Admissions Counselor, undergraduate and graduate levels.