Thursday, October 6, 2011

Success in College: what might influence it?

A lot of effort and money has recently been poured into bringing high school students up to some kind of par, “reducing the achievement gap,” as it is called. The point of this undertaking is to get kids into college. But what happens once they’re there? Except at the schools with the highest acceptance standards, the drop-out rate is astounding. What’s to be done about it?

Perhaps the more sensible question might be “Why should we expect anything else, when we consider the non-academic factors that influence college success?"

A 2007 publication by ACT, The Role of Nonacademic Factors in College Readiness and Success* lists three important kinds of non-academic factors:
1. Individual psychosocial factors, such as academic self-discipline, or commitment to school, and self-regulation, for example, emotional control, and academic self-confidence.

2. Family factors, such as attitude toward education, involvement in students’ school activities, and geographic stability

3. Career planning that identifies a good fit between students’ interests and their postsecondary work
Let’s get real here! Only the third item, career planning identifying a “good fit” – if such planning existed and were financially feasible for schools to utilize -- is something schooling could address with any hope of effectiveness.

Shooting at closing the high school achievement gap seems to be really off-target aiming, if eventually producing college graduates is the goal.

To examine these issues further, see The First-Year College Experience: Strategies for Improvement

--- EGR

* available at