Friday, September 28, 2007

High school methods won't work in college

In community colleges, the following kind of reminder must be repeated over and over before students "get it", and unfortunately some never do. The latter are usually gone before the second semester starts, sadly. This is roughly the spiel:

"College is not high school. You can't fail to turn in work and expect to get a decent grade; you might not even pass. What you could get away with in high school won't work here, among other things because in high school the teachers and schools get blamed if kids don't learn, whereas in college it's the student's fault. The teacher is there to give you every opportunity to learn, but cannot force you to learn anything.

This is, of course, much more like the real world than high school is.

I'm told that the graduation rate of my entire school is 17% (about 1 in 6). There are lots of ways that statistic can be modified, but it makes the basic point: students have to work at what they're doing in order to get a college degree. That degree will serve them well down the road, but only if they work to get it.

What might have excused you at some high schools will not excuse you in college. 'My computer died' won't work, because there are computers on campus (in open lab, in the library, in ILC/Guided Studies/whatever it might be called at a given school). 'My car died' won't work for long, any more than it will in your job. 'I had to work' is a matter of time management. 'I can't afford the book' is rarely believable. EVERYone can find ways to save time and money if they really want to; virtually no one is right at the edge, though many think they are. It is very difficult to do reasonably well in school, work a lot at a job, play video games or watch TV hours a day, and still make it. Something's got to give, and if school is what gives way, then you'll be one of those who are gone by second semester.

You have to take responsibility for yourselves, folks. School is, in a sense, your job internship. If you miss deadlines when you're making games, it may cost your company large sums of money--and could cost you your job. Get used to deadlines. Don't give excuses, give results."

But this often goes in one ear and out the other. I try to help people get used to this regime as much as I can, but in the end I can't hold 100 hands for months. People have to get with the program and do it themselves.

Millennials (Gen Y) have much different attitudes toward school than earlier generations did, which makes this entire situation much more difficult. Typically (there are of course many exceptions) they want an "easy button", they don't think practice is necessary, they want convenience, they expect to get something for nothing, and they're inclined to quit if the going gets tough. No wonder graduation rates are so low.

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