It’s a question that has haunted the parents of college-bound children since the first ivy-covered institutions were founded in the mid 1700’s:

What can I do to make sure my kid is successful in college?

While the parents may worry and wonder, it’s an issue that too few students worry about.College classroom

IQS Research will release a report later this summer that discusses some of the research we’ve done in this area, and what we’ve discovered as a result. But here’s a preview of what we’ve done.

Understand That College is Difficult

Many incoming freshman vastly underestimate how difficult college will be. Armed with their sense of invincibility and the false sense of security that success in high school courses brings, these students think college academics will be easy.

This sense of invincibility is good, because it gets them through their teenage years. But it’s bad, academically, because while they believe college is important, they don’t believe it’s going to be difficult.

Therein lies the problem.

What we have found by studying students who are successful in college is that they do think college is difficult. They may have thought it was easy before they actually started, but quickly realized it was something they had to work at.

For the low-performing students, they often fail to grasp the changes they need to make in their lives in order to be successful in their studies, and they remain in denial about those challenges. At the beginning of the semester of college, they think it’s not going to be that hard. When we look at the end of the semester, they still didn’t think it was that hard, but their grades are very low.

How Can Parents Help Their Kids Succeed?

As a parent, one of the things you can do is to help introduce your student to some of the college concepts, even the academic ones, so they can see what it’s like. Let them see the workload and the material. Let them understand that even if they use the same book they used in high school, the college expectations and their workload is going to be much heavier, even with the same book.

When I was in college, I took a chemistry class where they used the same book I had used in high school. Our professor let us know right away how much work this class was going to be.

“I know you used this same book in high school, and I know you think you’re going to do well,” she told us. “What you should understand is that what you took the entire semester to cover, we’re going to cover in two weeks. We’re going to get through this book in the course of a semester. You got through Chapter 12 in the course of a year.

“If you’re in here, and you used this book in high school, you’re going to fail this course unless you take a different attitude because you’re walking in here, and you think you know it.”

And that’s the key difference between students who succeed and students who don’t. The students who don’t succeed respond as though college isn’t difficult. They don’t study as hard, work as hard, try as hard. And when all those things happen, they get bad grades, they struggle the rest of the semester, and try to play catch up at the end, which doesn’t work at all.

What we have found is that some of the kids are flexible enough to make the adjustments they need, but some of them won’t do it. But in all cases, if they go into college thinking it’s going to be difficult and understanding that they’re going to have to work at it, make changes at it, and work hard at it to reach the goals they actually want to achieve, that’s a huge step forward.

In short, if you want your kids to succeed, you need to make them understand this lesson, above all else. Work hard, and success will likely come. Slack off, and it will not.

We will have our entire report available later this summer, and will have more information available on our website when it’s completed.
Photo credit: velkr0 (Flickr, Creative Commons)