4 Unexpected Reasons Why Your Teen Isn't Ready for College

Updated: Aug 25, 2020

Anxiety. Pressure. Uncertainty. College is arguably the most exciting time in a young person’s life. It’s also one of the scariest. Your teen may not express it, but there’s a good chance he’s doubting whether or not he will succeed once arriving on campus. As a parent, you should know that his fear is valid. There are plenty of obvious and unexpected reasons why your teen isn’t ready for college. Being aware of these is half the battle. The other half? Preparing to overcome them.

An Increase in Dropouts

In 2011, a Harvard University study revealed that 50-percent of college students drop out due to non-academic reasons. 50-percent. That’s HALF of all college students.

Even more startling? It doesn’t matter if your student is shipping out this fall to her top choice on a full academic scholarship, or if she barely got accepted into the last school on her list. Many of the reasons why students are throwing in the towel once arriving on campus are unrelated to academic performance.

Before we cover how to help your high school student better prepare for college, let’s take a look at four of the unexpected reasons why your teen isn’t ready for college.

1. Unable to Manage Stress

Stress in college is very real. And it’s increasing each and every year. Dr. Anthony L. Rostain, a psychiatrist and co-chairman of a University of Pennsylvania task force on the emotional health of students, believes that college-related stress is a public health issue. “We’re expecting more of students, and they think they have to be on top of their game all the time. It’s no wonder they feel overwhelmed.” In his 2014 study of more than 150,000 college freshman, Rostain found that 34-percent of students felt overwhelmed by schoolwork and other commitments. Despite these findings, there is little anyone can do to reduce the nation-wide level of stress that college students frequently feel. Learning coping mechanisms and proper ways to manage stress is essential, especially for incoming students and college freshman.

2. Money Issues

Most college students are unable to attend school without also holding down a steady job. Securing a source of income in college is important, and in many cases, essential. A study conducted by Public Agenda found that money was a top reason why students were dropping out of college - and it wasn’t due to high tuition costs. One of the unexpected reasons why your teen isn’t ready for college is because they are unable to balance work and school. Students who are working to support themselves while attending school, will often drop out when the stress and anxiety of managing both become overwhelming. Preparing your teen with time management skills, and discussing what to expect when juggling a full-time class schedule with work, can go a long way. It might even prevent them from throwing in the towel.

3. A Lack of Direction

College is an exciting time. A time for self-exploration, discovery, and growth. Millions of teens will move into their freshman college dorms this fall full of hope and potential. As they settle into life on campus, their sense of self and purpose can change course, and even fade. Classes in their elected field of study may be more difficult than expected, and cause them to question their chosen career path. This lack of direction can quickly turn into uncertainty, and even depression. A study recently conducted at the University of Michigan found that students with depression are twice as likely to drop out of school as their classmates. It’s unrealistic to expect college freshmen to choose a lifelong career path. Let your teen know that it’s normal to alter their plans and even change their major. Having a solid support system at home is critical to curbing depression in college, and increasing your student’s odds of walking across that stage.

4. A Lack of Time Management and Self-Discipline

Your teen may have excelled all four years of high school, but that success does not guarantee a college diploma. Most high school students are encouraged by their parents to wake up on time, get to school, complete their homework, and study for tests. In college, this lack of parental direction can feel freeing - but it can also wreak havoc on your son or daughter's academic performance. Most college freshmen experience a great sense of freedom once they arrive on campus. While this is a normal and expected part of college life, it can quickly turn into trouble. Students who lack time management skills will often become overwhelmed with their newfound freedom. Without mom or dad to get them out of bed in the morning, pester them to study, and ensure they are showing up to class each day - some college students neglect these tasks altogether and end up suffering because of it. Learn the hallmark signs of poor time management, and encourage your high school student to be independent and responsible now, so that it becomes a habit long before this coming fall.

Dropping Out: Why It’s a Big Deal

Maybe you dropped out of college early and ended up with a stable job. Or perhaps you took an extended break from academia, and went back years later to secure your diploma. While that’s great, it’s important to realize these scenarios are the exception, and not the norm.

Dropping out of college early can have very serious short- and long-term consequences on your child. It could mean a higher likelihood of unemployment. It could also mean the difference between a stable paycheck, and barely making enough money to get by. The majority of college students take out loans to help pay for college and are responsible for paying those back - regardless of whether a diploma was earned. Mark Kantrowitz is a nationally-recognized expert on the subject, and reports that college dropouts are 4 times more likely to default on their student loans than those who graduate.

As if the endless financial ramifications aren’t devastating enough, many dropouts also face emotional and psychological issues after bowing out of college prematurely. Packing up their dorm and heading home early can spur feelings of disappointment, regret and failure. All of which are very damaging to a young person’s self esteem.

Prepare Your Teen with College Ready Prep

These are just four of the many unexpected reasons why your teen isn’t ready for college. Preparing for ACT and SAT success is important, but what about preparing for life as a college student?

As a parent, all you want is for your teen to be happy and successful. Not only in college, but in life. Helping your student prepare to be accepted into college is awesome. But even more awesome? Taking steps to ensure your son or daughter can navigate through the next four years, walk across that stage and accept their diploma.

Here at College Ready Prep, we know firsthand how difficult it can be to manage the non-academic side of college life. We also know how many students lack the skills and knowledge necessary to stay in school and graduate. Our College Life Course was designed to address the top unexpected reasons why your teen isn’t ready for college, and properly prepare them to succeed in class, on campus, and in life.

Click to learn more about our one-of-a-kind College Life Course, and how it is changing the lives of teens throughout the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area as they prepare for college this coming fall.

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