August 19, 2009

Are you thinking about college? Is your son or daughter thinking of attending college. It’s a very big investment in money and time. Will it be a good investment? Well, if you have the motivation to succeed, then there is no better investment than investing in yourself. And the knowledge, skills and confidence you gain in the process of earning your degree is the capital of that investment the dividends of which you can draw on for the rest of your life.

But are you ready for this challenge? Would it be better to wait until you are better prepared? Well, there is a test you can take to give you a better idea if you are ready. Actually it is a type of assessment test that measures your readiness and compares your results to other college freshmen. The test is called the Learning And Study Strategies Inventory (LASSI).

Taking the LASSI involves reading through 80 items, mostly statements and rating yourself as to how much each statement describes you. The items are divided into ten scales related to your awareness about and the use of study strategies. The ten scales are: Attitude, Motivation, Time management, Anxiety, Concentration, Information processing, Selecting main ideas, Study aids, Self testing and Test strategies.

When you score the LASSI, you will see your score as a percentile so you can compare you score with other college freshmen. It is easy this way to see your areas of strength and weakness. You can then exploit your areas of strength and work on improving your areas of weakness. The LASSI manual says it is prescriptive in nature, not predictive. But my experience in using the LASSI in class for almost 20 years is that it is also a pretty good predictor of success in college.

The first three scales are the most important in addressing our question. The Attitude scale measures general attitudes and motivation for succeeding in school and doing the work necessary to succeed. In my experience, a student scoring low on this scale will have an uphill battle to succeed in college and should really think seriously if school is the right choice right now. The Motivation scale measures the degree to which students accept responsibility for performing the tasks necessary for success in school. Students who score low on this scale will also have a difficult time and should spend some time evaluating their goals before they spend a lot of money on tuition. Time management is the third most important scale in my mind. Even students who score well on the first two goals may still have a difficult time in college if they do a poor job of managing their time. It is the one factor that gets most good students in trouble academically. It is vitally important in college to learn to make and use schedules.

Much of the information I relate to you here came from the LASSI manual and from the publisher’s website. You can get more detailed information on these scales and the others at the website of the publisher for the LASSI. You can also order the LASSI here. It’s only $3.50. There is also an online version. .

Hope this info was helpful. Next time we’ll talk about searching for a path.



August 14, 2009

So, your son or daughter is off to college in the fall, congratulations.  It is an exciting time.  Perhaps it’s a bit scary too.  He may be leaving home for the first time, even if it is only for a fifteen week stint.  But even if she is staying at home and commuting to school, it’s still a milestone with many of the same pressures.  And it’s also a big investment in time, money and commitment.  Now, if you could help increase the odds that your offspring would make the best of this opportunity, that would likely ease some of the stress and worry involved in this transition.

What would a successful freshman year look like?  What’s the most important factor in determining whether your student will succeed?  Is it the good academic foundation he received in high school?  No.  Is it her good SAT scores which are supposedly a good predictor of college success?  No.  Is it simply the fact that he is attending a very good school and with that $35,000 per year tuition, there is no way “they” will let him fail?  No.  Is it past experience – she has always done well academically and so will certainly carry the same experience through her college years?  No.

Although all these factors are valid and important, in my opinion, none is the most important.  In almost twenty years as a college counselor, my experience has been that the most important factor in determining whether or not a new college student will succeed is motivation.  I have seen impressive high school transcripts and SAT scores of new students who you would expect to do very well, but they don’t last a semester.  And I have seen the transcripts and test scores of other students who obviously have struggled academically in high school, yet they do very well in college.

It’s all about motivation and for me that translates into goals.  The students who know why they are in college and have specific, realistic and measurable goals are the students who will succeed and even excel.  The students who do not have their specific goals thought out are most often the ones who fail or drop out when things get a bit difficult – and somewhere along this path things will get difficult.  It’s easier to stay on track when you have a goal to work towards.  And it’s easier to bail out when you’re not sure why you’re there.

So, how do you know if your young man or woman is ready?  We’ll explore that next time with LASSI.


August 14, 2009

When asked why they are in college, students obviously have many different answers.  Some have a very clear career path, know which major is appropriate and are goal oriented and focused.  Those students are the lucky ones.  Some students are in college because it’s just the thing you do after high school.  Some know it’s a tough economy, so they will try this “school thing” for a while and see  how it goes.  Some are not ready to give up the glory of sports.  They are not really interested in academics, but as long as they are enrolled full time, they can still play (for a while) and still bask in the glory – maybe.  Most sports are tougher in college than high school and require more commitment including more time.  Some were out in the workforce and found out how tough it is to make a go of things without that college degree, so they are back in school, but still don’t have a direction.

Make no mistake about it, doing well in college is not easy.  It is a lot of work and requires a big commitment.  But it is easier for students who have a clear path and specific goals to work towards than for those who are undecided or unsure of their path. The former have a significantly better graduation rate.   About half of college freshmen are undecided about their major.  And it surprising how little time they have spent even thinking about what their career path should be.  How can we get them to at least start thinking and then start exploring career paths?

One way is to have them take a short interest inventory test.  The Self-Directed Search was developed by John Holland and is based on his theory that most people (and occupations) can be grouped into six personality types: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional.  The six types break down this way:

  • Realistic – practical, physical, hands-on, tool-oriented
  • Investigative – analytical, intellectual, scientific, explorative
  • Artistic – creative, original, independent, chaotic
  • Social – cooperative, supporting, helping, healing/nurturing
  • Enterprising – competitive environments, leadership, persuading
  • Conventional – detail-oriented, organizing, clerical

The SDS asks students questions about their abilities and interests and then matches their answers to give students a three letter Holland Code.  Students then use this code to look up occupations and corresponding college majors which best match their abilities and interests.  One of three results will occur:

  1. You had no specific path in mind and the SDS pointed you toward some specific paths.
  2. You had a specific path in mind and the SDS reinforced that path for you.
  3. You had a specific path in mind and the SDS pointed you toward some different paths.

Whichever senerio occurs, the next step is the same: explore.  Armed with this information students should then spend some time looking up these occupations and exploring these majors in the library or online.  School counselors are probably the best resource for this information.  The idea is to use the SDS as a catalyst to spark interest so students will begin thinking about careers so that they can have specific goals to work towards and be more motivated to do well in the college arena.

You can get a paper version of the SDS or take the test online.  It only costs ten dollars.  Here’s a link: Welcome to the Self-Directed Search…the world’s most widely used career interest inventory!

Good luck.  Next time – Time