college

College search: finding your best school

Before you choose: Look for learning programs

Of some 1.5 million high school students who took the ACT and graduated in 2009, only 23 percent met all four ACT College Readiness Benchmark Scores, in English, math, reading and science. Students who do poorly in academics their first year in college often quit, according to an ACT report, "The Role of Academic and Non-Academic Factors in Improving College Retention." Whether you think you'll need academic support, check to see if programs like writing and math centers and one-on-one tutoring are available for all students, and not just those academically challenged. Strong learning programs have proven to be the best student retention tools across the spectrum of vocational technical, two-year and four-year institutions, according to a 2009 ACT survey, "What Works in Student Retention?" On every campus, says Wes Habley, ACT's principal associate, "There are students who are under prepared compared to the average student on campus. Some of those students -- if they don't have the services available to them -- won't survive academically."

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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