What are the recent trends in dropping out of college? The National Center for Education Statistics lists 2012’s college graduation rate at just 59%. With a nearly 50% rate of failure, it sounds like college programs are going the way of marriages! Recently it seems that financial situations are the most widely publicized reason for dropping out of college. But there are also other, more insidious reasons.
For example, you may think of bullying as solely a primary and secondary school problem, and may not realize that it can play an important part in college dropout rates. This article will answer questions such as why students drop out of college, how to tell if your college student is at risk for dropping out, why you should be concerned about bullying, how bullying affects college students, how to make sure your child or teen is using the internet safely, how you can tell if your child needs help, what you can do to help, and where to find resources if you aren’t familiar with technology.
We all know students leave college for financial reasons. According to the Washington Post, it’s the number one reason for leaving. But other reasons, cited by classroom.synonym.com, include:
- Family issues
Any one of these problems can be exacerbated by bullying. Bullying, even when it’s not immediately life-threatening, can destroy a victim’s self-confidence, leading to depression, insecurities and even relationship problems. Because of this, bullying needs to be treated systematically, not just by preventing it in our schools, but also by treating victims for physical, psychological, or mental injuries they may sustain.
Is your student at risk of dropping out?
Public school districts calculate students’ risk of dropping out using statistics. Data are drawn from students all over the country on factors such as
- Grades (especially pass/fail grades)
- Socioeconomic status
The data is then used to show which students are most at risk of dropping out. The numbers show that those with low grades, low socioeconomic status, and low attendance rates are at a higher risk for not finishing school, and you can use the same factors to assess whether your teen or college student may be at risk for dropping out of college.
Federal aid programs are in place to help students with low socioeconomic status, but grades and attendance can both be affected by bullying, so you can help decrease the risk by protecting your teen against bullying as well as by using more conventional means such as tutors to improve grades.
Why you should be worried about bullying
The American Psychological Association believes that around 40-80% of American children today have been involved in bullying in one way or another. This means that your teen or college student has up to a four out of five chance of having past bullying experiences.
If your son or daughter has suffered from bullying in the past, you may have seen the physical scars. But have you seen the emotional scars? Mental and psychological effects of bullying often go far deeper than you might expect. Although bullies in popular culture are often portrayed as physically larger and stronger than their victims, the real reason bullying works is psychological warfare. The bully strikes at a victim’s psychological self by tactics such as:
- Name-calling, which damages the victim’s self-image.
- Belittling comments, which damage the victim’s self-efficacy.
- Gossiping, which damages the victim’s reputation.
- Physical defeat (in a fight, or through practical jokes), which damage the victim’s dignity.
- Exclusion, which can damage the victim’s self-acceptance.
These are wounds that you can’t patch up with a first aid kit. If you suspect that your teenage child has experienced bullying in the past, try to get professional help to evaluate his or her mental health.
If your teen has never complained of bullying, it’s possible he or she has never been a victim of bullying, right? Yes, in theory it is possible… but it’s unlikely that’s the reason! There’s up to a four out of five chance of any one student being involved in bullying, but less than a one in five chance he or she will tell anyone. In fact, according to the Megan Meier foundation, only 17% of bully victims seek help. If your teen or college student refuses to tell you, it may be because
- He or she is embarrassed because the experience was humiliating
- The bullies threatened to harm your child if they were ever “tattled on”
- The experience took place at a very young age and has been forgotten
- Your teen really has never been involved in bullying (there is a one in five chance)
If you suspect one of these situations, don’t try to force a confession. Rather, make sure you provide training to protect against bullying in the future as well as resources to help deal with past experiences if he or she ever has the desire to discuss it.
How past bullying experiences affect college students
If your student has been bullied in the past, it may affect later college experiences in several different ways.
- If a child’s sense of self-worth has been destroyed by bullying, self-motivation can be difficult or impossible.
- If your child’s self-efficacy has been called into question, it will be more difficult to make friends.
If your student has been involved bullying others in the past, it can affect his or her self-image in these ways:
- Children who bully others often have insecurities about themselves, which can carry through into their adult lives.
- Children who bully others may feel as though they have to bully others because nobody would want to be friends with them willingly
Though it sometimes goes by different names, such as “hazing” or “stalking,” bullying can continue past high school into the college years. In fact, says gse.buffalo.edu, a study has shown that 18.5% of college students have been bullied while in college, and even more (22%) have experienced cyberbullying. Many behaviors included in these experiences are actually illegal under state law as well as federal law.
Bullyingstatistics.org adds that bullying can continue through college into adulthood and even into the workplace. If your teen doesn’t learn to defend against bullying, his or her entire life could be affected by it. Make sure your teen is educated about his or her rights, bullying laws, and how to get help when bullied.
What you can do to help
Make sure to educate your teens about bullying before you send them off to college. Basic bullying education topics include:
- How bullying can be a problem
- What types of behavior are considered to be bullying
- What laws are in place to protect against bullying
- Where your teen can go to report bullying
In addition to bullying education, teens need to know basic self-defense to protect against physical bullying. Make sure that when your teen goes off to college, he or she has established contacts such as a college advisor, a “campus parent,” or a counselor to talk to about any situations that may arise.
If your teen is moving away from home to attend college, make sure you find a reputable mental health practitioner near the college. Mental health issues can be a result of bullying, and existing issues can worsen. It’s important to treat any issues your teen may develop from being victimized in college, or issues that may surface from earlier bullying experiences. These interventions will help your child to become one of the ones who makes it through to graduation.
Other ways you can reduce dropout chances:
Since one of the predictors of dropping out is family circumstances, providing a supportive family atmosphere for your teens is crucial. Make sure they know they can trust you and talk to you about any problem. This is especially important if bullying is a problem, since it takes a lot of trust to confide in someone about such a humiliating experience.
Where to find resources
If you have a teen in college or one who is about to enter college, here are some resources you can use to learn more about bullying, bully prevention, dropout statistics, and psychological treatment options.
- If you’re not too comfortable with searching the internet, you can make use of the links at the bottom of the page for websites that teach about bullying and bully prevention.
- Use your local library to find teen-friendly books such as Dan Olweus’ Bullying at School or Aly Walsh’s Kindle book A Guide to Bullyproofing Yourself in College as materials for training your teen.
- If you’re not familiar with your library’s card catalog or online catalog system, ask a librarian to help you find the materials.
- Ask your doctor to recommend a mental health practitioner you can go to with questions about mental health issues that bullying might bring up.