What Makes Freshmen Drop Out?

Katie Livingston
Staff Writer

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 30 percent of enrolled college students in the United States dropout their freshman year, and 53 percent drop out before they finish their degree.

These dropout rates have several causes; however, one contributing factor could be high schools’ inability to prepare students for higher education, particularly in the areas of freedom and academic readiness.

Concerning freedom, many college students have difficulty adjusting from the strict rigidity of high school life to the absolute freedom of college.

They are thrust into personal responsibility, unsure of how to grapple with it and adequately manage themselves.

The result is the stereotypical irresponsible freshman: up all hours of the night, missing classes, turning in assignments late and struggling to find balance in life.

However, the underlying problem causing students difficulty in their transition cannot be solely attributed to the ignorance of youth.

The root problem lies in how these institutions differ in the way they treat their students.

High schools assume students are incapable of personal responsibility and treat them as juveniles in need of constant adult supervision and guidance, much in the same way they were treated in elementary school and middle school.

Upon taking a closer look at how high schools function at a fundamental level, especially in Oklahoma, this is no surprise.

According to the Oklahoma Policy Institute, Oklahoma is leading the nation when it comes to budget cuts to education — by a significant margin.

Oklahoma schools are among the most underfunded in the United States, and the repercussions are clear. The ratio of teachers to students is growing increasingly large, making managing students more difficult.

On top of that, school curriculum is homogenized, as the purpose of high school is to deliver a standardized version of education. Schools teach to standardized tests in order to make sure students’ scores reflect well on the school and teachers.

This could explain why lack of freedom is so prevalent in the high school setting.

With so many students to manage, and the reputation and funding of the school resting on these students’ performance, educators can’t afford to allow students to make their own decisions.

College, on the other hand, is based upon different assumptions. The college setting treats students as adults, capable of making their own decisions and dealing with the consequences of those decisions.

Because colleges have the advantage of selectivity, they can choose who gets to enter their student body.

And since students are generally paying for their own education, there is an underlying assumption that they want to be there and are dedicated to learning and taking responsibility for their learning.

Skills taught in college are specialized and tailored to the individual, and whether students pass or fail, a class is never a reflection on the professor’s ability to teach, but the student’s ability to learn.

Because of the underlying assumptions at the heart of college learning, responsibility is inherently placed on the students.

While there might be a reasonable explanation for the differences in operation between college and high school, for many students, the transition is sudden and unexpected, making it difficult to adapt to their new roles.

Many of them also have trouble coping with their new workload, because high school didn’t prepare them academically for college.

According to data from PBS News, 96 percent of colleges in the United States enrolled students who needed remedial courses, and 209 schools placed at least half of their incoming freshmen into remedial courses.

This indicates a significant number of incoming freshmen do not have the fundamental math, reading and English skills they need to tackle the most basic college courses.

There’s also evidence to suggest high school tests are not adequate barometers for predicting college readiness.

In the state of Massachusetts, a study by the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education suggested that one third of students who received proficient grades on state administered standardized tastes had to take remedial courses when enrolled in college.

At Cameron University, out of the freshmen seeking a bachelor’s degree who enrolled in the Fall 2016, at least 39 percent needed a remedial course. Out of those seeking an associate’s degree, that number went up to 81 percent.

Students are unable to simply manage their time, let alone build a schedule that allows for hours of uninterrupted studying. Intro to University Life classes may attempt to help with this, but they are essentially a band aid over a gaping wound.

Students are ingrained with a certain mindset during their formative high school years, and these mindsets don’t help them.

Rather than being able to make a smooth transition from high school to college life, freshman year is a trial by fire. And until education systems adjust to help prepare students for college life, nothing will change. Students will either learn how to adjust and survive, or they won’t.


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