The second semester is well underway. With midterms nipping at your heels, are you thinking of dropping out? Statistics show that 1 in 7 post-secondary students drop out before graduation, and that 15 percent will drop out before the end of first year. Anxiety, stress, fear, and debt can influence whether a student decides to continue with their chosen path of study or drop the ball and run. Post-secondary institutions are keen on identifying the factors that contribute to student dropout and the ways these issues can be remedied.
In 2007, Seneca College launched the first Canadian research program to identify the importance of institution-provided support services in student success. Seneca invited first-year students to meet with a coordinator. In these academic sessions, students received information about courses, study tips, career planning, and senior tutoring. The Foundations for Success report deems that the key to dropout prevention is to encourage students to use the available support services.
First year is often the toughest of an undergraduate’s academic career. Students need to reinvent their study strategies and step up to an increased workload. Counselling services assist students in their transition from secondary school to university or college. Students should consult these services before deciding to drop out and leave their degree behind.
At UTM, students benefit from various free services that cover a diverse array of issues. For essay and study tutoring, the Academic Skills Centre is found in the library. For career counselling and planning, the Career Centre welcomes students in the Davis Building. For assistance with physical and mental health, the Health and Counselling Centre offers medical and psychiatric care.
Specific to first-year students, UTM provides the genONE program. Students that choose to enrol in the program have access to workgroups with other first-year students in their program, mentorship from a Peer Academic Leader, and facilitated study groups. The purpose of the program is to help students fully understand the programs they’ve chosen and to make the most of their academic experience in the following years.
“It’s very hard, at 17, to realize what those programs mean and what it means to study within an academic discipline and whether you’re actually going to like it or not,” said Tanya Lewis, the director of academic success and accessibility services at the University of Toronto. “Going to university is often the first time young people step out on their own and there’s that kind of rush and thrill of independence that makes it really difficult for students to ask for help.”
Unfortunately, not only first-year students fall victim to the temptation to drop out. Financial issues and program dissatisfaction can even lead senior students to consider ditching their post-secondary education.
Matt Zgomba, a fifth-year CCT major, was set to graduate until he was informed that he is short a certain credit required for his program. Since CCT is a deregulated program, Zgomba pays the full amount of his pricey tuition regardless of the number of courses he is enrolled in.
“Summer school tuition for deregulated programs is completely overblown,” Zgomba said. “I had thoughts of dropping out solely because of the charges, with only 1.0 credit left to take in summer school.”
Cassandra Faranda, a third-year history major, toyed with the idea of dropping out after her second year. Unsure about her program, Faranda applied and was accepted to a different school but ultimately chose to finish her degree at UTM.
“I wanted to drop out and go to culinary school, which is my passion. I decided I should finish my degree at UTM because I felt like I was giving up. I would have wasted two years,” Faranda commented.
“History doesn’t have anything to do with culinary, but I enjoy the program. And after I graduate, I always have the option of becoming a teacher.”