Virtually every student will at sometime face one or all of these six key issues and will find in I CAN Finish College  the tools to address and solve them. This is the definitive how to guide on how to finish college.

Setting your path:

It is important to do the work to find the right fit. The things to consider are first and foremost—what your needs, style and interests are.  Knowing yourself and how you learn and what is comfortable for you will make all the difference in how well you may do in the end.

It is not about the brand name of the school but if it has a solid reputation, is accredited and has strong outcomes for its alumni then you can see if it is right for you.  Are you a big school or small school person? Is it better to start slowly down this path with a good but affordable community college or are you ready for a four year school. Do you like to learn hands on or are you happy doing library research.

Do you need a strong athletic department or theater group to round out your life. Talking to alumni is a hugely valuable use of time. See where others from your school, church or family have gone and how they fared.  Visit if you can. Sometimes the vibe on campus is what you need to experience.

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Financial Planning

A significant, but not the only reason, for college attrition is money. The cost factor is also key in deciding where to go. Students do not understand how the financial aid process works, the importance of knowing the “sticker price”, or the importance of using all the tools available to help establish a plan for paying for college with the least debt possible.

Sometimes, if you are low income or a stellar student you may pay very little for top tier schools. Or if your state or city has a superb system of public higher education you can do very well getting a wonderful education at a reasonable cost. But always explore scholarships, tax breaks for college students, loan forgiveness programs like City Year (Americorps), and all the other tools that might help make college feel more within reach.

Tapping Resources/Building Networks

Students can let the fear of being thought deficient stand in the way of making the connections that will actually help them achieve their goals and do not understand that power and how inquiry is actually an asset in a college context. Networks are going to be the key to both success in college and long after. The trick is to speak up. Professors love students who ask questions—they assume that the student is serious and interested—not dumb. Resources like tutoring centers are often most used by the students you would think needed them least… the ones with the 3.5 GPA shooting for the 4.0.

These centers, librarians, writing centers, advisers, or teaching assistants are all there paid by your tuition dollars, to help students succeed. And the students who tap every resource and get to know people around campus are the ones who are also building the most valuable resource of all – networks. Careers are built on networks often forged in college.

College Prep and Post College Employment

Most students—especially first generation students do not know how to choose majors and courses and use resources to navigate to a job and career potential after graduation. Too many place too much weight on the major while ignoring the other experiences and relationships that can make all the difference for the short and the long term. There are very few lives these days lived in one career or job.

People who have worked for some time will say that what they learned at college (regardless of major) are big skills like writing and research and just learning how to learn that they then apply over and over in a vast array of careers.  The subject matter of a major should be one that engages you so you can do your best work—because you love it. Showing yourself at your intellectual best will help build your reputation and your career path.

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Best Practices

Students are often baffled and overwhelmed by both the amount of work to be done, the demands on time and the freedom college brings. The freedom often means there is not focus on managing tasks and deadlines. They also do not know that study is different and that even reading for various disciplines is a new skill set. These can become real stumbling blocks and even create crises that could be avoided if some simple tips are followed. It will be key to find out things like what your best study style and location is.

If you are a visual learner then video, flash cards, or diagrams will work for you. Do you prefer actual books or online reading and how do you learn to take notes depending on your format. A planner is essential. Study groups (not of friends) are essential.

Crisis Management

It is important for students to learn how to manage the crisis in the moment, and then to reflect on what was learned. They also need to learn how not to create the same scenario in the future. Some of our toughest lessons come from making mistakes. Mistakes are survivable! Bailing out is not the solution. It is most important to seek help.

Be sure there is someone in the school administration that you know and trust—a dean, adviser, coach or faculty member.  But never try to solve a problem alone. So many students stumble and even leave school because of something that could have been fixed if they had only spoken up.

These subjects and many more are covered in I Can Finish College: The Overcome Any Obstacle and Get Your Degree Guide  by Marcia Cantarella, PhD

Marcia Cantarella

Marcia Y. Cantarella, PhD  has held positions at Hunter College, Princeton University, New York University, and Metropolitan College of New York. During her 22 year career as a dean and vice president of student affairs she has enhanced the academic experiences of and outcomes for generations of students. She is an author and the founder of I Can Finish College website.

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