Recent studies have shown a declining college graduation rate, leaving many with student debt, wasted time, and nothing to show for it. While some of these individuals do return to school and complete their degrees, the majority do not. A well-matched school increases the likelihood that a student will complete their degree, so taking the time to make the right college decision is crucial and there are a number of things to consider.
According to a recent report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 36 million Americans have left college without obtaining their degree since 1993. About 10% of these individuals are considered “potential completers” and have a high likelihood of completing their degree if they re-enroll. There are some institutions that target this group specifically to encourage them to return to college. Most of these “potential completers” have finished at least two years of college within the past 10 years and are under 30 years of age. Many of them have also attended multiple schools throughout the years.
While it may not seem like graduation rates matter and a degree is not necessary to be successful, students that leave college before graduating are often left with significant student debt and no degree to help boost their earning potential. On top of that, they have lost time that could have been spent in their career gaining valuable job experience. Late graduation also means more debt is accrued and time is lost. There are many reasons that students do not graduate, including financial issues, lack of preparation, indecisiveness, poor advisory system, loss of motivation, and lack of overall support. There are obviously many other reasons that students do not complete their higher education, but with adequate time put into planning and finding the right college, it is possible to greatly increase the likelihood of graduation.
Once a student has decided to attend college, it is critical to pick a school that is the right fit. The first step is determining what the most important factors are, and this will vary from student to student. Distance, private or public, school and program rankings, extracurriculars, location, and more should all be considered. Campus visits can be beneficial to get a feel for the school and the surrounding city. As financial constraints can be a major influence for many, fully understanding the financial aid options is also important. Major programs and other academic factors are some of the top considerations for most students when deciding on a college. It is important to choose a major that is interesting, as is understanding the program requirements. Degree road maps and other resources can help to clarify what courses are needed and if graduating on time is achievable. These can also help create a defined academic path to follow, as well as outlining what a full course load looks like. The availability of courses is crucial as well, along with the strength of the chosen major program. Many students enter college with an idea of what they want to obtain a degree in, but this frequently changes so it is a good idea to find a school that offers multiple majors that seem interesting.
While academics are important, there are many things that play a huge role in the overall college experience and can push students to leave before graduating. Extracurriculars such as sports and greek life are very important to some students and should be factored into any college decisions. Campus size, student population, and housing can make a huge impact on the feeling of community within a school. Orientation classes can help to foster this sense of community and build relationships between students, as well as helping prepare them for the rest of their college career. Students should feel at home at their chosen school. Institutions that have strong advisory systems and strive to help students graduate on time provide support for students that may be struggling. For many, a sense of community and support system can be more beneficial to graduating on time than a stellar academic program.
As a student, choosing a college should not be based solely on any one factor. Finding a school that is going to ensure success is the key, and that requires a combination of academics, location, extracurriculars, and more. The elements that are important to each individual student vary, but if the perfect match is made, students are much more likely to see graduation and future success.