College Roller Coaster: Are You Tall Enough To Ride?

By Kameron Court

Think about the first time you rode a roller coaster. With each anxiety- and excitement-filled step forward in line, you prepared yourself for the twisting and turning experience waiting ahead.

You remember the moment you sat down in the cart and locked the safety bar to hold you in. Adrenaline, panic and exhilaration coursed through your body. Your cart made it to the top of the first hill, but just before dropping, you had a moment to look at the madness ahead.

Now add a few shots of vodka, countless sleepless nights and thousands of dollars of debt to this memory and voilà – you’re looking at the college experience.

“College is the best time of your life. When else are your parents going to spend several thousand dollars a year just for you to go to a strange town and get drunk every night?” – David Wood

Quote by David Wood. Graphic by Kameron Court.

In the fall of 2014, 19.1 million people were enrolled in public or private two and four-year U.S. colleges and universities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This number is projected to increase to 20.5 million in the fall of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Though more students are attending college than ever before, there is no guarantee they will actually graduate.

A study conducted by the National Student Clearing House found only 56.1 percent of students who attended a college or university completed their degree within six years.

Although the study shows 15.3 percent of students were still enrolled after six years, many are likely to never get their degrees. This would mean only a little more than half of college attendees actually graduate. Just within the first year of school, 30 percent of students drop out, according to College Atlas.

How can this be avoided? Watch more than a dozen Texas Tech students who are on the verge of graduating offer advice to incoming students about staying on track and getting a degree.

Carley Banks, a junior from Pflugerville, Texas, said she wished she could tell her freshman self to go to class more.

Laura Duclos, a senior from Sweetwater, Texas, made a similar wish.

“I would tell my freshman self to take grades a little bit more seriously,” Duclos said.

Students who attend class make better grades than those who do not, according to the Association for Psychological Science. Red Raiders can also make better grades by taking advantage of the servicers provided by the Learning Center, personalized academic advisors and three different libraries .

Megan Reyna, a junior from the Woodlands, Texas, said her advice to incoming students is not to worry about trying to fit in.

“Find friends that support you no matter what, and focus on what makes you a better person,” Reyna said.

A way to follow Reyna’s advice is by attending school events or joining an organization, such as a fraternity or sorority.

A group of Harvard University and Syracuse University professors found Greek organizations have a positive effect on student retention. The study stated 90 percent of those in a Greek organization were still enrolled in school during their senior year; by contrast, senior-year enrollment among non-affiliates was only 70 percent.

There is also a strong connection between involvement in student organizations and personal growth, shows a study by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators1

The idea of persevering through the difficult and frustrating years of college may seem impossible some days, but when it’s all said and done, 83 percent of college graduates say it was worth it, according to the Pew Research Center.

If you find yourself thinking you are incapable of finishing your degree, remember what “The Fault In Our Stars” author, John Green, said: “Every year, many, many stupid people graduate from college, and if they can do it, so can you.”

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