Motivating college-age students

When your children make it to college, you hope that they know why they are there. Unfortunately, many are there for the wrong reasons. They know they SHOULD go to college, their families expect it, their friends are all going, or college is a good way to put off the inevitable, finding a job. They have not made their college choices or plans because of their career goals. When the course demands get tough, they may not have the motivation to sustain the kind of effort needed to succeed.

Lack of motivation in college will result in low grades, dropped courses, and dropping out. A recent study by the U.S. Department of Education tracked the high school class of 1992 over an eight year period. Only two-thirds of the students who had attended a four-year college at any time had earned a bachelor's degree by December 2000. Although 90 percent of students begin their second year, one-third of these students had finished their first year of college with "low academic momentum." That meant they had earned less than 20 credits, had habitually withdrawn or repeated coursework, and were in the lowest one-fifth percentile academically. These students will be the most likely to drop out.

Motivation in college is important early - in freshman and sophomore years. Most students who quit leave in their second year. This suggests that you as a parent need to stay well informed about their progress during that time. Continue to set high expectations. Know what courses they are taking. Encourage them to explore new fields and encourage new interests. Ask them how they are doing after mid-terms. If they are having trouble in a class, suggest that they talk to their professor or instructor. Make sure they get help with academic, social, and personal problems. Most importantly, help them connect why they are there with their personal and career goals. If they find that they need a break from school to set these goals, help them structure it so they learn more about themselves and can return to school at a later time with purpose.