college

College search: finding your best school

Before you choose: Research transition programs

According to an ACT academic retention report, successful first-year transition programs include orientation; first-year seminars; academic support systems, such as tutoring, skills development and learning assistance programs; faculty and peer mentoring; and placement testing. Many institutions even have programs for accepted students who've not yet enrolled to help them make that final college choice.

For admitted students, all colleges offer some sort of orientation program. "Opt for a campus that has a more extensive orientation program, not just one or two days in the summer or even just a freshman week," says Wes Habley, ACT's principal associate who has been conducting the survey since 1983. Some colleges offer special transition programs for students at higher risk of dropping out.

To help students throughout their college years, Rosa Pimentel, associated director of undergraduate admissions at UCLA, suggests looking for strong personal counseling services. "Personal issues can blow up and not make the student successful," she says. Students who develop a strong connection with their university tend to persist even despite other potential difficulties, such as poor academic performance, according to the ACT retention report.

Recap: The problems

Campus culture shock -- If the campus and its student body don't match the student's personality, the student will ultimately feel out of place.
Solution: What to consider before you choose »
Lifestyle transitions -- Students often underestimate the difficulty and challenges of collegiate life and have trouble handling transition issues, such as developing time management and study habits, forming new relationships and choosing a major.
Solution: What to consider before you choose »
Financial stress -- Students who must work to pay for college are at greater risk of dropping out than those who are more financially secure, according to an ACT college retention report.
Solution: What to consider before you choose »
Unprepared for college -- Most students are not prepared academically for college, according to an ACT report.
Solution: What to consider before you choose »
Academic mismatch -- Colleges that are either too easy or too difficult, often cause students to transfer or drop out altogether.
Solution: What to consider before you choose »
Lack of academic guidance -- One of the primary factors affecting college retention is the quality of interaction a student has with a concerned person on campus, often in the form of an academic adviser, says an ACT report on improving retention.
Solution: What to consider before you choose »
Students outgrow the school -- "Many students are thinking ahead in terms of going to medical school or law school or getting graduate degrees," says Rosa Pimentel, associate director of undergraduate admissions at UCLA. They may find, though, that the school doesn't have the resources it needs to move them ahead.
Solution: What to consider before you choose »
School selectivity issues -- An ACT survey shows 72 percent of students in "highly selective" schools -- those with the majority of freshmen in the top 10 percent of their high school class -- graduated within four years, as compared with 49 percent at "selective" schools; 31 percent at "traditional" schools and only 30 percent at "open enrollment" schools.
Solution: What to consider before you choose »

 

 

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