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McKena Wood English 111 AMS Essay December 2nd 2013 The Perfect Disaster

Many students come to college their freshman year full of excitement and high hopes. They have been preparing for this since their freshman year of high school. With the stories and advice given to them by friends, teachers, parents, college is going to be the best time of their whole life! For the most part that is entirely true, college is a great time and many people find that they grow into an adult in these crucial years. However, many students enter their freshman year with the wrong idea. They immediately think of the movies that show college dorm life, all the outrageous parties, funny professors who teach super easy courses, the jocks who don't go to class and somehow remain enrolled. While in reality, all of those false pretenses should be left behind in high school. The dropout and dismissal rate of college freshman is very high. It is very easy to get behind your first year at a University. Most colleges have a very strict policy on what needs to be accomplished in the student’s first two semesters attended. If those requirements are not met to the fullest potential, the student will be asked to leave the University, quite promptly. There are many reasons one may be dismissed from a University. However the reason that occurs most often is due to academics. Students are to keep their grade point average above an average given to the student based upon the number

Wood 2 of credits they are enrolled in. If the student does not do well the first semester of college they may be placed on academic probation, which entails that the student is watched carefully the next semester. The student will be dismissed if their GPA falls below the GPA range for probation. This all makes perfect sense, if read and studied very closely before entering college. In a perfect world every college freshman would read that in the handbook, take notes, and make sure that they stay as far away from that as possible. But as most know, this is not a perfect world and many students are not entirely informed on the system of dismissal. Christinia Henderson, now an Alumni of Furman University, kept a blog her whole freshman year. She still keeps it updated now with helpful tips and strategies for incoming freshman. She agrees that superiors at universities should strive to make the guidelines more understandable for all students. Sometimes the severity of the guidelines does not come off clear enough. She writes, “Even though the terms you use may be clear to you, other people must understand them if you wish to communicate effectively.” (Henderson 2) Christinia wrote this in her short essay, “What’s it really like to be a college freshman.” A relatable article on the trials of being brand new to a college and how to avoid disaster. The system is very clear at most Universities on what will earn you a letter asking you politely not to return in the fall. However, students do not realize how easy this happens to many kids without even noticing that it’s happening. Students also need to acknowledge that the system is there for a reason; it is very strict and

Wood 3 unforgiving. One would think that a University would do more to prepare their students and inform them of this dismissal policy. A college could provide more help, or arrange mandatory meetings for students on probation to fully explain the danger of dismissal. If students were clearly told how close they were to the end, and had it shown to them, it could save a lot of them from being dismissed. In no way should a University be responsible for making sure students don't flunk out, but they could offer more help to the students who are in danger and don't realize the severity of it. Most students who are asked to leave the University they attend, are the same students who struggle with education and do not learn as quickly or efficiently as the students around them. No one should be holding them by the hand and helping them through their classes, but there should be a program put in place for all students who find themselves on academic probation. These students would be forced with the reality of how close they are to losing their dreams. Sometimes people need to be hit with a wake up call; and this sort of program would work as one for these college kids. Professor Clark held an experiment at multiple Universities in the United States to study the success, and failure rate of college freshman. While performing these studies M.H. Clark noted, “Students leave universities prematurely for a variety of reasons, some by choice and some due to academic failure. While no program can address all of these problems, several programs attempt to reduce student attrition and academic failure, pri- marily by using strategies that emphasize students’ adaptation to college and university

Wood 4 climates” (Clark 618) The studies done by Clark showed that the students enrolled in a preventative course, focused on freshman success, did much better academically than those who were not enrolled in the course. The program would clearly state what grades the student needs to accomplish to stay enrolled, nothing less. The program would offer tutoring for classes and a counselor to talk to the students who may be going through something more serious. They could also clearly states the many things that could be causing the student to do poorly. There are so many distractions that come along with college; especially freshman year. There are numerous clubs and teams to join, things to do around campus, new people to meet everywhere, not to mention the temptation of those outrageous parties seen in the movies. Professor Fry completed a very interesting experiment where she became a college freshman for a semester at the University where she teaches. She was very surprised by her findings and wrote a book on all that she learned. She adds to the topic by stating, “Today's students are subject to a much wider range of significant demands on their time than were the college students of the past. With the majority of students working in the paid-labor force and with students strategically volunteering and participating in campus activities that will boost their résumés, they simply have fewer hours to devote to the academic endeavor.” (Fry 39) She agrees that with all the distractions and activities surrounding college campus’, it is very easy for students to lose sight of what is really important. While these things can be fun and beneficial, they need to be done in a responsible manner, keeping all priorities straight. Grades need to be

Wood 5 put first before anything else, most importantly in your first year at college, and a reinforcement program would really help those students who fall off track first semester. Universities should do everything in there power to prevent students from making these mistakes and to educate them on how to make the right decisions. “It addresses students preparedness, identification, and connectiveness to the academic and social cultures and sub-cultures of the institution, and their academic goals and aspirations.”(Colton 153) George Colton explains while promoting programs to help college freshman adjust. Most kids come to college at the ripe age of 18, and are expected to be a completely responsible student; who never fails, knows all their limitations, and is ready to decide what they want to do with the rest of their life. Students like this do exist, kudos and great job to the ones who do, because it certainly is a lot to handle. However, many students struggle in at least one of those areas, and it would be nice to have a program to help those kids. Honestly, they are faced with some pretty serious decisions and responsibility, when just three months ago they had to raise their hand to use the bathroom in high school. William Mangold wrote a very profound journal studying college retention, and how it may affect students. He wrote about the students who may need a little extra help during their first year in college. He explains, “For many freshman this is a daunting experience, and many leave the University before sophomore year.”(Mangold 114) William Mangold agrees that this can be a tough time for some students, and they may need some help to make college retention not such a

Wood 6 pressing issue. His opinions are very similar to those expressed in the journals of Christinia Henderson. Being asked to leave a university after just one year can have a great emotional affect on a young adult. After doing so well in high school and working hard to get accepted college, everything falls apart right in front of their eyes, a “perfect disaster”. Everything they worked for is suddenly over, and the thought of telling their parents makes them want to flee the country. Students think to themselves, “If only I got my act together and thought about this last semester, this would never have happened.” This small program could be that eye-opener that these students need. Being dismissed from college is absolutely humiliating and so hard on a young persons pride. These students are not dumb and are usually very good at academics; something got them to college in the first place. Telling people that they failed out after one year can destroy many of them, knowing that they did it to themselves is even worse. A probation-dismissal prevention program could really help a lot of college freshman who have chosen the wrong paths academically, or made some bad decisions their first semester. Yes, the student is the one who is responsible for flunking classes, no doubt. However, everyone makes mistakes and so many students fall down that first year; there should always be someone there to help them back up.


Clark, M. H., and Nicole L. Cundiff. "Assessing the Effectiveness of a College Freshman Seminar using Propensity Score Adjustments." Research in Higher Education 52.6 (2011): 616-39. ProQuest. Web. 1. Dec. 2013.

Colton, George M. "Fighting Attrition: One Freshman Year Program that Targets Academic Progress and Retention for at-Risk Students." Journal of College Student Retention 1.2 (2000): 147-62. ProQuest. Web. 2.Dec. 2013.

Fry, Melissa. "My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student." Phi Kappa Phi Forum 86.1 (2006): 39-40. ProQuest. Web. 1 Dec. 2013.

Henderson, Christinia. "What's it really Like to be a College Freshman?" Career World. 09 2005: 31. ProQuest. Web. 30 Nov. 2013.

Mangold, William D., et al. "WHO GOES WHO STAYS: AN ASSESSMENT OF THE EFFECT OF A FRESHMAN MENTORING AND UNIT REGISTRATION PROGRAM ON COLLEGE PERSISTENCE." Journal of College Student Retention 4.2 (2003): 95-122. ProQuest. Web. 2 Dec. 2013.