Malcolm Gauld has seen many students thrive in college, and many fail. So what does it take to make it in college?
Armed with knowledge and life experience garnered during primary and secondary school careers, soon-to-be graduates prepare to step into the next phase of their young lives which, for many, will be the pursuit of higher education at a college or university. The foreboding question some in their lives may think but not ask is: Will they be successful?
After the curtain closes on the pomp and circumstance, many students will face an unfamiliar and oftentimes challenging script on a very new stage: the demands of rigorous academic coursework combined with myriad social opportunities and virtually no supervision.
“It’s a combination of variables that can trip up even the most disciplined and, what we might call, ‚Äòwell-behaved’ students,” says Malcolm Gauld, co-author of the parenting book, The Biggest Job We’ll Ever Have, and president of Hyde Schools, known widely for its unique approach to helping students develop character. “College can initially be very overwhelming for any student, and many will struggle, particularly those who are accustomed to having parents manage some or all of their lives. Fact is, one in four college freshman drop out.”
For those students and any others interested in beating the odds, Gauld advises taking hold of their responsibilities. “With the best of intentions, parents may take away their kid’s motivation by taking hold of things they (the children) can do on their own. Kids can help their parents let go by embracing their work and being accountable to their own lives.”
Gauld also offers a set of well-tested recommendations to students who may need help through the transition. He acknowledges that while the advice is not necessarily a path to the dean’s list, students who test and follow through with his three tips will maintain “student in good standing” status throughout their college careers.
Gauld explains his approach to college success in three simple steps:
- Go to class. A seemingly simple concept, this is what snares most students who do not complete their degree. Attending class not only reinforces material consumed on the student’s own time, but it fosters a relationship between the student and professor, which makes students less likely to drop the class. Withdrawing from even a single course can become a very slippery slope, Gauld explains.
- 3 x 5 Study Method. Study three hours a day, five days a week–and then set aside two days to do as you please.
- “You gotta serve somebody.” Join an athletic team; try out for a part in a play; write for the newspaper; get involved in the campus recycling program. Build a connection with your school that is more than just academic.
Gauld uses mathematics as a motivational tool, pointing out to students skeptical of his plan that going to class and using his “3X5” study method, will only consume 27 hours of a week comprised of 168.
“The kids generally respond well to this advice. I think that’s in part due to the fact that I’m offering action steps, not giving them a list of don’ts. I figure the don’ts are being amply covered by students’ parents, their teachers, and every other adult they encounter. And if students take care of the DO’s, they won’t have all that much time for the don’ts.”
A high school educator for more than 30 years and parenting expert, Gauld and his wife Laura address the parental “letting go” process and other issues with parents and families in their schools and the workshops they deliver throughout the country and abroad. He is currently working on a short, portable, and funny book about this topic.
“We try to help parents understand that what they do, what they pay attention to is what they reinforce in their kids’ lives. And if they’re worried because their kids are unprepared to take on the challenges of independent life, they have to take a look at what they pay attention to and maybe back off.”