YTN’s research echoes that of UCLA and Ohio which indicates that youth are less prepared for life on their own or college than at any previous point in time. Even students with high academic achievement often struggle once on a college campus. In our interviews with thousands of high school seniors and college freshmen, YTN uncovered a number of important factors that lead to the 28% dropout rate of freshmen. The more disturbing reality from YTN’s research was the fact that over half of the students experienced struggles academically, socially or financially that their parents knew little or nothing about. In our first set of interviews we found:
- A young woman who was sexually assaulted and contracted an STD in her first week on campus
- A young man who awoke in the hospital having almost died from alcohol poisoning
- A young woman, a junior in college, who was trapped in an abusive relationship with her boy friend stemming back to her first week on campus
- A young man who got himself in trouble financially and took two jobs leading to academic probation
- A valedictorian who thought college would be easy and could not believe how much she was struggling academically in college
- Over 80% of high school seniors felt leaving home and the transition to college would be easy. Over 70% of college freshmen said the transition was way more difficult than they anticipated. This lack of clearly perceiving the challenges set college freshmen up to encounter difficult transition issues.
- Students’ lack of perception of the challenges, and associated stress, change and loneliness made them prone to encountering culture shock. Culture shock is a physiological response to stress and change that opens them to bond with a foreign culture very quickly. This means that the first 24 to 72 hours on campus, before classes even begin, are critical to the long-term success and health of our kids.
- Over 60% of the youth we talked with who were headed to college or the military were, in effect, screaming for freedom from their parents. YTN found that that they could not wait to leave home and have freedom from their parents’ pressure and restrictions. As a result most, with their anticipated freedom, were focused on the wrong things. In effect they were like an arrow on a bow pulled back and ready to fly with one major problem; they were pointed in the wrong direction.
- The friends made and the activities adopted in the first days on campus often set the course for academic and financial achievement in the first semester to year on campus.
- Students who did not have their own goals in place before college related to a future career, their academic achievement, and financial management were far more likely to encounter issues in their transition.
Findings from UCLA and Ohio State along with YTN’s research clearly demonstrate that youth are: less prepared for life on their own, focused on freedom from their parents, and a majority are leading dual lives. As a result YTN developed Succeed, a college transition program that opens the eyes of juniors and seniors to what is ahead. We must also reexamine the approach to parenting we employ through the adolescent years. Too many students are not ready to manage their lives on their own and are seeking freedom from parents more than achievement in college.
Combined with all of YTN’s other research, this conclusion led to the development and testing of a different approach, the Secrets of Influential Parenting.