Two weeks after the start of her second semester, Sarah, a first-year student got anxiety over the workload in her Early Childhood Education program. She got sick and had to stay away from classes for almost a month. By the time she returned, her professors told her she was so behind that it would be better not to stress out. They suggested she drop out and come back later.
Dropping out of college does not mean a person can’t come back or won’t find success. However, it does mean putting lots of money to waste. So how can vulnerable students avoid dropping out?
Some students leave because of money issues. OSAP looks at all applications but some students may not get the funding they need. Sometimes students fail because they have jobs, sometimes to earn the money to stay in school, and the lost hours may undermine their schoolwork.
Personal lives and a student’s way of learning can also contribute to dropping out. Student Access and Learning Services (SALS) is right on campus for students who struggle. It has more than 400 student matches for peer tutoring, and about 4,000 students get help from SALS every year. Student fees are already included in their assistance, so money is no problem.
Some students are worried about asking their teachers for help, but the people at SALS say they shouldn’t.
“I’d say teachers are very happy to talk with students,” says Nicky Patel, director of SALS, “so don’t be scared about that, because it’s their job to support students and they’re glad to do so.”
There are situations where students feel they need an extension on an assignment. According to Patel, professors will work with students to keep them in school as long as they’re honest.
“If you find that you’re not getting what you need, you should always talk to your associate dean or you should talk to your student advisor,” says Patel. “I think most teachers, if they’re real educators, are going to try their best to support a student.”
There are also options if course loads feel too heavy. Before final term grades, students can withdraw from a course, which puts a ‘W’ on their full disclosure transcript. The grade from that course won’t count towards their GPA.
This can be beneficial for a student if the grade is harmful, and gives extra time to focus on other courses.
However, withdrawing from too many courses can look bad, and some of the courses may be required for future classes.
If a student decides to withdraw from a class, they have the option to take the course during another semester. This can mean staying an extra year or more, but this does work for some students, says Sherri Taylor, a student advisor.
There’s also the question of the best way for students to work. Patel’s advice is to not multitask. She says brains don’t work that way and it’s like trying to juggle all the balls in the air while doing an assignment.
She also says if a student is two or three weeks behind, they can probably catch up if they prioritize properly, and SALS helps with peer tutoring and time management.
Taylor says a key strategy for passing and not falling far behind is to show up.
“If you show up and participate, you’ll pass,” she says.
Some classes require attendance due to textbook readings and discussion. If a student needs to be absent, SALS can help students talk with professors.
Some students also decide the course is not right for them, which is not uncommon. According to a study from the University of La Verne in California, more than half of students change their majors at least once during post-secondary education.
There are ways students can select a course they feel confident in paying for to avoid switching.
“[Students] need to attend open houses,” says Taylor. “Talk to coordinators, talk to students in the program. If you have time, sit in on a class. Do all that legwork before you make a real decision, because it’s money, it’s expensive.”
However, both Taylor and Patel say if a student comes to the decision that he or she has to change their course or drop out, that’s their responsibility and choice.