Choosing the right classes in college
By the time a young person enters college, a parent may believe, or simply hope, the career path is clear. After all, you are paying for it! However, most young people are taking very circuitous paths to their postsecondary degrees:
- About 60 percent of college undergraduates change schools at least once.
- About half of those earning bachelor's degrees change their majors at some time.
- One in eight graduates from 4-year institutions gets some credits from community colleges.
Studies of graduation rates suggest that when students change colleges or majors purposefully, their chances of completing their degrees are not negatively affected. Students who simply change because of lack of success (low grade point or few credits earned) are much more likely to quit school before earning a degree.
Another important factor that contributes to success and persistence in college is the number of credits a student completes in their first year. Students who have at least 20 credits after their first year are much more likely to complete their degree than students who do not. Even for part-time students, 20 credits is an achievable target.
Postsecondary institutions (colleges, universities, community colleges, and career schools) spell out their course requirements for degrees and certificates. Many schools have general education requirements that all students must meet. Then, students must also meet the requirements for their specific program of study or major. In order to complete all of these requirements within four years for a bachelor's degree or two years for an associate degree, your student needs to be planful about his or her course selections. Here are some hints:
- If your student has entered school without a confirmed major or program of study, encourage him or her to tackle general education requirements early and systematically.
- Encourage your student to try subject areas that are new. Although schools typically have a few core courses that most students take, there are also arts and letters, culture, social science, and science requirements with broad selections of courses. This means that your student can meet requirements and explore new fields at the same time.
- Encourage signing up for special classes like freshman seminars. These offer more intimate experiences and a chance to get to know a professor and classmates well.
- Make sure your student is aware of when required classes are offered. Some classes are not offered every term.
- Suggest that your student talk with upper class students about courses that are particularly good and professors who are stimulating. Take advantage of great teachers; students often discover their life passion because of a teacher or topic introduced in a college class.
If your student is planning to transfer from one institution to another, some credits may not transfer. Oregon community colleges and public universities have worked together to define an agreed upon set of transfer requirements. If students follow these guidelines, after completing the AA degree at the community college they will transfer with junior standing. However, they may not have junior standing in their major. It is critical that students discuss their education plans with advisors at both the community college and the 4-year institution and plan their course of study accordingly.