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How to Keep Your Kids on Track for Graduation

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By Marshall LoebRISMEDIA, Sept. 13, 2007-(MarketWatch)-In today’s highly competitive work world, the importance of a college education can’t be underestimated. Not only do six out of every 10 jobs require a postsecondary education, donning that mortarboard also boosts a person’s annual income by an average 80%.

Yet only around 40% of the students entering public four-year colleges now are destined to graduate. For those attending private institutions, graduation rates hover around 57%.

So how can you keep your prospective college freshmen from ending up on the wrong end of this bell curve? Helping them adjust to life outside the nest is critical, reports Scientific American Mind contributor Yvonne Raley, associate dean at Felician College.

She writes: “Entering college is a rite of passage in which students must make a transition from the community of their childhood — their family, high school and hometown — to that of college, in which roommates stand in for siblings, trusted teachers for parents, and a dorm in a new town for home.”

Here are four things parents can do to help ensure their kids successfully matriculate:

1.) Stress the importance of studying and time management. A review of more than 100 retention studies in 2004 determined that strong study habits and time-management skills were better predictors of who would go on to graduate than high school grades or test scores.

2.) Make sure that students address gaps in their education. Incoming students who lack basic reading, writing or math skills risk getting in over their heads. If your children need extra help, suggest that they use their first year to take some remedial classes. It’s important that they take steps to fill these gaps early on, as most college dropouts leave by the end of their first year.

3.) Encourage them to get involved. Students who join clubs or participate in other campus activities early in their freshman year are more likely to effectively assimilate, according to Raley. “One of the key influences on a student’s commitment to completing college is whether the student successfully integrates into social circles,” Raley writes.

4.) Don’t disengage. Entering college is a challenging transition, so take the time to ask your child about grades, social network and general state of mind. If you find that they are having a hard time connecting with peers or faculty, it may be time for a reappraisal. Students sometimes falter when they find themselves surrounded by people who don’t share their values or culture, Raley warns. Perhaps your child should consider moving to a different dorm — or even a different school?

Marshall Loeb, former editor of Fortune, Money, and the Columbia Journalism Review, writes for MarketWatch.

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