About three million first-time college students will soon be arriving on campus—most of them coming directly from high school. About one million of them won’t make it through their first year or return as sophomores. This attrition is financially and emotionally devastating for families, and destabilizing for colleges. What goes wrong for so many students? And how can we stop the bleeding?
Financial challenges account for the largest chunk of these departures. But many others leave because the support services they and their parents feel they have been promised are often impossible for colleges and universities to provide. The number of students with mental health challenges has been rising for years—around 44 percent of all college students report symptoms of depression and anxiety. The rate of students taking psychiatric medication doubled between 2007 and 2019, and is now at 25 percent.
But what concerns my colleagues and me is the growing expectation among parents and students that college administrators are there not to guide young people, whatever their challenges, in mastering the tasks of adulthood, but to spare young people from them.
There are only about nine weeks between high school graduation and a student’s arrival on campus. That is very little time to prepare a teenager for the necessary shift from life under a parent’s management to (semi-) independent living. In as little as four weeks after classes begin, a first-year student who is unable to make that transition can end up unable to recover academically. Read more…