Conquering the Freshman Fear of Failure

Students, especially poor ones, arrive at college feeling overwhelmed academically and socially. A few simple nudges can help them thrive.

Comments: 55

  1. Excellent essay. The interventions described-- assuring students that they are worthy of admission and encouraging a proactive approach to performance improvement-- should also bear fruit in other venues, including the workplace.

    Society and organization's would be better served by boosting the performance of the many, rather than focusing almost exclusively on top achievers.

  2. As my third child begins his freshman year this fall, I am very aware of this.

    We've long known the importance of emotional IQ. We've long known the value of mentoring. We've long known the value of help to gain insight into self. We know how much of a difference peer group and social support can make.

    Doing it online is original. I'm not sure it is the best way. There are monay others. It can't hurt. I don't think it is likely to be enough on its own.

  3. As someone who has worked for decades with under-served high school students as a corporate manager and college students of all backgrounds as a business etiquette trainer, and whose daughter works in higher education, I believe this is an interesting, and possibly important, part of the formula for student success, but only a part. There are other strategic tools with which we should be equipping students to increase their knowledge and confidence levels to help them handle themselves in college and beyond. Aside from that, the real starting point in getting a child ready for college and career begins in infancy and pre/elementary school. But then that village has to stay involved all the way to help students --and as an extension, society -- thrive.

  4. I agree--decades spent teaching both college and high school. But the psychological component of men and women 18-22 cannot be understated, and Mr. Kirp presents, to my mind, a balanced account of how self-understanding (and self-misunderstanding) matters crucially to success in the classroom. I remember a young scientist--now no longer young and tenured at a prestigious university in the North East--awarded a plum fellowship denied to the vast majority of its highly qualified and self-selecting applicants explaining his admission to that fellowship. Though extremely anxious and self-doubting about applying, finally after months of agonizing he had convinced himself not just to apply but to win; as he put it, "To win this fellowship, you have to believe that you deserve it." This is not a gospel of success: more than 95 percent of applicants will fail to win the fellowship, no matter what they believe. The point is, how one young person--formerly worried and self-doubting--grow to believe what is the case and therefore raise oneself to achieve, so far as possible, the desired result.

  5. I remember well my own uncertainty about whether I could make it. This was COLLEGE, the big leagues (actually I felt a bit of the same when I started high school apparently not getting that moving from 8th to 9th grade was no more of an academic leap than 7th to 8th etc.).

    I though came from a college educated family in a cultural milieu where most of the youth went to college. I soon settled down and did well, but had much support and encouragement. Any means which can help students with less certain or supportive environments succeed is a plus. Far too many of our young people who start college do not finish. Not only do they not get the education which can improve their economic outlook, but they also carry a sense of having failed (or not being up to par) forward into adult life. We serve them poorly if we do not help with that particular hurdle when many of them have come so far to get to that point.

  6. Have very much been in this place.
    Study hard, do more than course requires and stay focused. Sure.
    But you also need to do things that remind you why you're going to college in the first place.
    Late night dorm jams. Pizza with German class. The student rec center. Just hanging out with others will remind you that you are not alone and belong there as much as anyone else.

  7. Don't send poor students to college? How about a trade s hook instead. College isn't a panacea.

  8. And we have to ask where did the notion of doubt come from in the first place? The notion of priming exists, in which people are told something about, let us say, and impending task. If people are told the task will be difficult, then it may be found so. If people are told the task is easy, then, perhaps, it will be found so.

    What do we tell people about experiences we have had? Recently, I drove to and through Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. I found the drive taxing because of sharp turns and narrow roads bordered by precipices. Should I relate this experience to someone who asked?

    In high school, I never heard a teacher talking about college in the context that college is difficult, or, if we do not do well in high school, college will be impossible, or that we would start and drop out.

    When I began college, doubts and dropping out never entered my mind. On reflection, I saw college as grades 13, 14, 15 and 16.

  9. I graduated first in my class in both undergraduate and graduate school at a large distinguished state university. I am by all accounts "successful" professionally and academically. I struggle to "fit in" every day still, in my middle age. I felt invisible for most of my four undergraduate years and had few friends. Graduate school was better but not without struggles. My first professional job was a living hell. I'm more comfortable now in my third professional job but still struggle to find my place. This is all part of life. Hats off to those who keep fighting in the midst of this struggle with challenges that are difficult and unique and personal.

  10. Everyone in an intellectual profession lives in secret fear that the thought police will come knocking at their door and drag them away as imposters. This is not confined to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. In fact, the more advantaged you are, the more aware you are of all that you do not know.

  11. Here is the best advice any striver will ever hear: read novels. The story of the poor boy or girl who rises to the top with nothing but brains and guts, is a staple of classic fiction. Novels are a social climber's best friend, and I mean this in a good way. How else are you going to learn about high thread count sheets, good Champagne, Nantucket summers, and hideous pink and green sweaters? Once you've followed the exploits of Becky Sharp, Rastignac, and Undine Spragg, you simply cannot be patronized. Not only will your confidence improve, but so will your vocabulary, your SAT scores, and your Freshman English grade.

  12. how do we get access to the slide show?

    Is it proprietary? If not, the Times should provide a link.

  13. At least if you flunk out of college these days, you won't get drafted into the Army and forced to fight some far away foreign enemy in a loosing war! Of course, you may have to join the Army and fight some far away foreign enemy in a loosing war!

  14. I agree. Especially in the CSU system students are left to fend for themselves. I graduated in 4 years, but fighting the administration took more effort than passing the classes. It's in their interest to keep students 5 or 6 years for extra income, but no more as then they are impacting classes for the newer students. It's a broken system, and having more advisors that aren't overloaded is the way to provide support.

  15. "With a scandalously low 59 percent of undergraduates earning bachelor’s degrees in six years, the rest departing with no degree, sizable debt and weak job prospects, taking such action isn’t simply a smart strategy. It’s a moral imperative."

    Maybe the real scandal is underinvestment (monetarily, intellectually and culturally) in primary and secondary education.

  16. It takes a village.

  17. My father, upon my telling him that I had done poorly in one college math homework assignment: "Well, they're not trying to hide the answers from you."

    I had expected anger (my previous high school test failures led me to this expectation) but instead got hard logic: That if I applied myself, including studying, practicing, attending lectures and recitations, and reaching out to others for help, I could find the answers to all the problems the professors set before me.

    And he was right. Hard work, and a willingness to learn, and more importantly, understand the lessons, is what it takes to get through an undergraduate courseload.

  18. We need to be clear about the place of higher education within our culture and our social structure. In the 1960s barriers to access to college were reduced ; open admissions was designed to break the class and racial hold that barred so many. The concept of open admissions was flawed because even the process of application, writing an essay, gathering documents, and applying for financial aid was intimidating and beyond the experience and support required to hurdle this obstacle. Open admissions was about access and not retention or graduation. Qualifying for federal financial aid required a minimum of 12 credit hours per semester, well beyond the capability of students with minimal support networks and little family history to show the way. Access was not supposed to guarantee success and poor retention and graduation rates were the result of the "weeding out" process where the few were supposed to succeed. A college degree was and is for the few who could achieve self mastery--survival was the rite of passage--not learning; if learning happened all the better. Of course graduation rates are low--they are supposed to be--that is the risk of open admissions. To use a recent political expression, it was and is, "a rigged game." Is there merrit in the exclusivity or should we "insure" that everyone succeeds? If sucess is the measure of value then what is the value?

  19. I agree 100% with the author's statement regarding a lack of confidence and fear of failure among poor or first generation college students. But I don't see how this applies to minorities. Would a minority student, from an affluent, college educated family have the same insecurities as his/her classmates from poor, less educated white families? Will Malia Obama need additional support to succeed at Harvard?

    I'm all for providing support for disadvantaged students - at all levels and not just college. But saying someone from an affluent, college educated family is disadvantaged academically just because of his/her race is bigotry of the worst kind.

  20. Helping students see the larger purpose behind activities they tend to see as drudgery or unimportant to their futures can also help them hang in there. Along those lines, I had the challenge of teaching history to computer scientists and engineers! It was a class that necessarily involved a lot of writing which had to demonstrate they had grasped the Holy Grail of critical thinking. When I first started it was like pulling teeth without Novocain. I then started pointing out to them that, while they could reasonably look forward to great starting salaries upon graduation, if they couldn't write a clear memo, persuasive proposal, or compelling report they were going to top-out professionally realllll quick. To say it was like Dorothy opening the door after landing in Oz--going from B&W to Color--would be way overstating the impact of my pitch, but it did in fact help brighten the atmosphere in the class and I got more visitors to office hours.

  21. very relevant story with many young adults about to head off to college. I went to a top 5 engineering school and graduated with a degree in chemical engineering. what I found helpful was finding a strong, small group of folks who could become a reliable set of study and homework partners. I remember spending 15 hours on one problem one time in a computer cluster. one definitely wants a strong support group while doing that kind of work. If poorer students are minorities, they can find great support with specific ethnic clubs that sponsor peer tutoring and homework help. Lastly it's the students themselves who need to bring an open mind. Engineering, physics, etc are great leveling mechanisms to poor with large egos or inflated sense of self. leave the ego at home. college is a place of the most exciting time for a young person. fellow students should never focus on background or race. focus on maximizing one of the most special times in a person's life.

  22. Precisely why Resident Advisors and the like exist!
    I always made sure to help those who felt out of place at my university when I was an RA and campus leader that they are not alone in how they feel. I also made sure to connect my fellow classmates with his on campus, club and organizations to join, and whatnot to feel connected-helps a lot more than just a good reminder and connection to ones identity and to others who have a similar one as them.

  23. This is why I favor small colleges.

    My freshman year I had to take biology at Drake University in Des Moines. I had always been afraid of animals of any size. I flunked my first lab test because I was afraid to touch anything.

    The professor called me in. He went through the lab with me, practically holding my hand while I did the dissections. It was his kindness and understanding that made it possible for me to ace the 8-hour course.

    Although I finished college in another major, it is because of Dr. Johnson that I have always had an interest in science.

  24. What are the specific 40-minute online exercises?

  25. I grew on a dirt road, in back of the town dump in a house with no utilities until I was 8 years old. We walked to the dump in the winter to get wood to heat the house. The teachers in my high school at graduation gave me money out of their pockets as an incentive that I would go to college, which I did.

    I graduated from graduate school with a PhD, and I was at the top of my graduating class, remembering my high school teachers every day. My single greatest interest professionally is to help those attempting to further their education at all levels.

    Some teachers are gifts, a buy at any price. My small school district had a very high percentage of these gifts. My wife was that kind of teacher. She produced two children who are: a decorated combat veteran (who briefed that secretary of defense in Iraq) with 3 bachelors degrees, 2 masters degrees and a doctorate, all with very high honors. One will retire at age 40 after setting up and running the computers at a small trading firm on Wall St., and the other is a psychologist like her dad. Ahh, just the work of teachers

  26. Wayne State and Michigan State just dropped their college algebra requirement. Good or bad? On one hand -- will probably increase the graduation rate as much 15%. On the other hand -- those with poor math skills will tend to make less money.

    The only thing that matters to the students -- get the degree, get the "ticket," whatever it takes. Life goes on.

  27. The message in this article is sensible and inspiring, but unfortunately one of the messengers is not. I cannot understand why Dr. Kirp would choose to quote Claude Steele, who only months ago was forced to resign as Vice Provost because of his utter failure to appropriately punish sexual harassment at the highest levels of UC Berkeley leadership. A man who fails to recognize the traumatic and alienating effects that this toxic culture can have on college students has no place weighing in on how best to retain them.

  28. Prof. Kirp, J'accuse! You are certainly right that every post-secondary academic institution has the legal and moral responsibility to ensure that every matriculating student should graduate and do so free of debt. However, you and your fellow professors are a key source of this legal and moral breach to students and their family. The first source of the problem is your outrageous salary as a tenured professor. For the $160K annual salary (excluding benefits and pension) how many hours of classroom instruction do you provide? Certainly no more than 500 hours, if that! Or $320 an hour! Any how many students are you responsible for supporting their academic success? None! Shame on you and the hypocritical members of your academic profession. There will be a day of reckoning for all your laziness and greed.

  29. So, let's see, research shows that if the colleges teach, and if the students work, then the students will learn. Okay. Got it.

  30. Cheers to David Kirp for calling attention to an overlooked problem, and then going the extra step and proposing steps to reduce the problem.
    Colleges today are horrible for students, and the rates of suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, and dropouts are desperate cries for help. When you factor in the lives shattered by sexual abuse, it is clear that College are failing their students.

    Even worse, many adolescents develop worse mental illness at that age, and Colleges have a unique opportunity both to identify and treat students before their illness can get out of hand.

    The programs David Kirp are a great start, and I hope that the leaders of today's colleges will step up and make a difference for their students!

  31. A good way to build confidence and responsibility among beginning university students is to have them "serve" after high school and before beginning university. Ideally that would be serving their country in the military, but as that would probably strike no receptive chords in the U.S., then at least a year of any national service. That would do wonders for maturity.

  32. First of all, apparently the author applied to a school that he thought to which he had no chance of being admitted if he thought it was a mistake that he was admitted.
    And perhaps the author could explain how so many first generation college attendee who came from impoverished backgrounds in previous generations manage to make it through college without any of the support he describes. Perhaps it's because the public education system in this country was once something to be proud of and is now an underfunded joke.

  33. Professor Andrew Hacker in his new book,"The Math Myth" shows that the major academic cause for students dropping out is the requirement that they pass one course in college math. This foolish requirement should be dropped so many talented student would be able to graduate.

  34. Regarding the mindset research, some of it is constructed as an experiment which allows the cause-effect conclusion, that training toward a growth mindset improves performance and retention (on average). It is indeed a promising development, and as Mr. Kirp notes, the online training can be cheap and quick. I agree we need to convince students that intelligence is not fixed.

    However, much of the growth-mindset evidence (as described in Dweck’s book “Mindset”) is correlational and even anecdotal. If growth-mindset individuals turn out better than fixed-mindset individuals, it’s tempting but unjustified to say the cause is the growth mindset. There could be third variables driving the outcomes. Just a quick word of caution that Dweck draws causal conclusions more than appears justified.

  35. When I was an undergraduate 30 years ago, a sharp focus of what I desired and a fear of failure helped me succeed, particularly in my first two years. I hate to sound negative, but I frankly doubt that kids today have the necessary second prerequisite to succeed at university, given that they aren't acquainted with failure at the secondary educational level. What I'm talking about is social promotion at the elementary and junior high level, and it doesn't serve children well in my opinion.

    Again, I don't want to appear harsh, but without knowledge of failure, how can you understand success? ; doesn't ignorance of failure also diminish so called accomplishment in the absence thereof? Yes, there is much to be said about self esteem, and many marvel at the confidence millennials exhibit; however, their confidence is also founded on a false basis. Failure is easier is often easier to deal with than success, but only when this is taught at an early age---and this includes freshman year.

  36. Professors who deliberately design student tests so that everyone "bombs"?

    This is not setting "high standards." This is an act of sadism. An act that deliberately makes students dependent on "pleasing" the professor, who is playing the role of "tough Daddy" or "bad Mommy."

    As a professor for three decades, I know some of my tenured colleagues enjoy playing roles like this. Many students, especially freshmen, experience a "transference" to the professor, who is both worshiped and feared. This condition makes them vulnerable to sexual predators, whether they be professors or their graduate teaching assistants.

    The constant drumbeat of cases involving sexual misconduct in the academy needs to be taken into account by educational researchers, who, as professors themselves, may also be parties to such activities.

    Dr. Claude Steele, cited by the author of this article as an "iconic" figure, was implicated personally in covering up sexual misconduct by his tenured professors. Steele resigned on April 15, 2016 as Provost at Berkeley. As reported in the April 15 NYT, "the university released hundreds of pages of investigative reports showing violations of the university’s sexual harassment policies by 19 university employees. Most of the cases had not previously been made public. In addition to these cases, the university is investigating 16 cases involving sexual harassment and nine involving sexual violence."

    "Reaching out" to abusive professors is not good advice.

  37. No one told me to go after class and introduce yourself to the prof and get to know him or her. Don't be scared. Have. A lite conversation with. Your prof.

    Ask him or her for any tips to do well in class. Do the homework and if you have time do the other problems in the chapter that weren't assigned.

    One of the most valuable lessons you can learn in college is the ability to be at ease while speaking to an older adult (prof, boss etc), it makes you stand out.

    So go talk to your prof. Have a conversation. Profs are people too and they want to help. Don't suffer in silence and struggle in silence like I did.

  38. Fear of failure is never comfortable and can lead to aberrant behavior but it can also be a terrific motivational tool. The fear can drive extraordinary effort to master material that you find very difficult, to compete with students who enter classes much better prepared than you.

    With the demise of core curricula where virtually every student would find something required that would stretch them to the limit, much was lost.

    Make the mathematically gifted draw an elephant, speak a foreign language, and write an essay on the lessons from Athenian democracy for contemporary U.S. politics. If they perform poorly, let the grades reflect it. They might just learn that other people, perhaps of a different gender, race, and/or ethnicity are more talented in some areas than themselves.

    Put the verbally gifted in STEM activities that help them find new limits.

    The results will surprise. Students will find new interests, develop new images of themselves.

    The stress on graduation rates and the use of GPA for comparing students are metrics that drive mediocrity. The easiest path to improving graduation rates is to lower standards. GPA develops expertise in finding easy courses and liberally grading instructors.

    Individuals must lead in mastering their fears of failure in college and life generally. Succeeding at hard things is invaluable.

  39. "many freshmen doubt that they have the necessary brainpower or social adeptness to succeed in college.". this feeling is based on the idea that universities set higher standards for their students and that they have have been ill-prepared for this by their high school education. While it is true students are not prepared for higher education (or more generally, for life post-high school) , it is only in the STEM curriculum, that higher standards of academic achievement have been maintained because it is in the nature of STEM subjects to require rigorous thought by the students and to objectively evaluate the students' effort. As long as students, stay out of STEM specialization, they should have no academic (as opposed to social) problem with university education because it has far lower standards and often treats a student's opinion on a equal, or higher, footing than the student's knowledge (at least as long as the student's opinion aligns with that of the professor)..

  40. And make sure they have their binkys and action-hero themed pajamas too. Quite the generation of hot house flowers, most of which will wilt under the glare of real-world realities.

  41. My reaction: if this works for college freshmen who have been subjected to years of schooling, imagine how influential this might be for Kindergarten students whose parents struggled in school, parents who were repeatedly given the message that they were failures, and parents who unwittingly transferred that message to their children. And if these messages can't be absorbed by Kindergartener's through reading or self-directed study, maybe a show-and-tell format would work. Maybe successful "graduates" from their elementary school could visit class and explain "...how they navigated the shoals of elementary school life" or a visit from a respected community member who would explain that "... intelligence isn’t a static trait or the luck of the genetic draw, but can grow through hard work." And it's possible the teachers and administrators in the school would learn something from the show-and-tell activities like this as well.

  42. Acquire 'ways that help'. Carefully proofreading is one of those.

  43. If I am doing the math right , the impact of this intervention impacted less than 30% of a group that constitutes 10% of the college population. So the overall 30% failure to graduate rate drops to 27%...Houston , the problem we have with low graduation rates in college is not so much what happens in college, but what happens before college. What we really need to drastically improve k-12 education before talk about sending more (all ?) kids to college. Focusing on remedial efforts in college puts the cart before the horse.

  44. I earned my bachelor's degree in 1997, and I'm finally going back to graduate school (while teaching and parenting full time). I still have these feelings. It's nice to be reminded that HOW I view myself as a learner affects whether I do well. It's nice to know that I'm probably not alone in these feelings, and it's important to be reminded to ask for help when needed. Great article!

  45. It would've been helpful to have an idea of some of the elements of the Stanford PERTS experiment. Guess we'll have to look it up online.

  46. This is a great survey of important steps that can help more students succeed at college. Thank you, Mr. Kirp!

    The next step out from this research, looking at applications of what we know about success, will be to examine campus climate. When white students engage in "recreational racism" and students of color object, we need to begin to see that the students of color have an important point. Instead of reflexively defending the right of white students to exercise their freedom of speech, we need to step back and ask ourselves the damage done when racial stereotyping isn't strongly challenged. Everyone who attends college deserves to do so without having their self worth torn down by bigoted behavior and "funny" ethnic stereotyping. This is about building strong diverse communities, not about "political correctness". Bigotry hurts, decency matters.

  47. When I was teaching at the state university, I would have students crying in my office, some ready to drop out, because they got a D on their first exam. They had NEVER got anything below a B in high school. I would point out the them that in their high school the were in the top 30% of the students. Now they were in college where just about everybody was in the top 30% of their school. The completion was tougher, but not to forget that everyone was in the same boat. Keep paddling and you'll be fine.

  48. By the time I got to university, I had already failed.

    I was supposed to win an academic scholarship, or at the very least an exhibition, to Christchurch College at the University of Oxford to read physics and philosophy. From there I would gain my first, go on to get my PhD in theoretic physics, go into research, finally be awarded a DSc, become a world renowned scholar and all the rest.

    Instead, I bombed big time. I ended up like so many other Oxbridge rejects at the University of Bristol, where I spent a miserable three years knowing that I had fallen at the first hurdle.

  49. When I was in the first grade in 1948, the international leader of the order of nuns who ran our Catholic school visited my classroom, crowded with 66 students, and gave us a pep talk about our futures. She told us that we were starting an educational journey that would last 16 years.

    I believed her, even though my mother had to leave school after 8th grade. I never had any doubts that I was meant to go to college and succeed, because a very important person said so. Every child should have such a goal given to them when they are young.

  50. Picture a business with a customer worth $30K a year, for four years or more, who will then send money for no reason other than the warm fuzzies s/he experienced while there. Each customer matters, each customer should be cherished. Academia stands alone in treating this customer as a nuisance.

    I grossly generalize, but there is some truth in the following about the average American college/University. A bloated administrative staff that has very low IQ. Every office has one too many assistants and secretaries that fundamentally do nothing of value. Half of the faculty, and most post-tenure faculty, are brain dead. We have taught the same material since 1990, even though the world changed about a dozen times. Never mind the prison like dorms, and cafeteria that aims to produce heart disease. Sports, whether Div I or III, remains a racket. Despite everything espoused, students are either coddled or treated as a nuisance.

    The customer should, but does not, demand more. The product goes to serve the lowest common denominator (vacuous coursework: i.e., Emotions of Dogs). Too many classes are taught by adjuncts who of course "know everything."

    What is needed is accountability in the system (the current level is zero), and substantive leadership (i.e., currently the realm of academically unsound ambitious liberal arts trained people who speak well but don't know a spreadsheet from a hole in the ground).

    Kalidan

  51. College experience for a new student is different for every student especially if one is the first among siblings or even first in the family to go to college. Institutions have to understand these sub-cultural nuances before the professors start throwing stuff at them in vengeance as though it was an Olympic competition that they are at. First semester or even the entire first year is an adjustment period.
    Institutions and their often egotistic professors need to be judged by the number of students they have saved rather than failed

  52. I earned my full scholarship to the University of Rochester, but after being told by the teaching assistant that women weren't wanted in chemistry and receiving no help when my work-study ran out of funds, I came home to CUNY, where the TAs said the same thing, but I was working during the day, so my future was no longer in Academia's grip. My degrees in economics and political science served me well: I went into computer hardware and software. May those rich girls who tried to arrange my rape after my going away party suffer.

  53. Anyone that has worked in Student Affairs is reading this and saying, "Well, duh."

    Student affairs professionals have long known the efficacy of "sense of belonging." But higher education studies in silos.

    So, two quick questions for the author.

    1) Why don't you provide a citation for the study?
    2) Did the researchers control of living on campus? If not, you can toss out the results.

  54. Perhaps civilian colleges should follow the lead of the US Naval Academy. Freshman or "plebes", start on July 1st with 6 weeks of Plebe Summer, an intense, harrowing, difficult boot camp. They are up at 5:30 am, continuosly under the eye of "Detailers", pushed to physical and mental limits. When parents are allowed to visit in late August the changes are amazing. Our nervous, shy teenagers are replaced by clean-cut, fit and polite young men and women. Their doubts and insecurities have been replaced by confidence and camaraderie. It is only then that they start the academic year.

  55. My mother and father did not have a college degree. He died when I was young and my mother was much older than most. I went to a local Junior College as I did not have the money or grades to go to a "big time" college right out of High School.

    Speaking of High School, they let me off easy. Old teachers who had been around for a long time just on the edge of retirement. I was not challenged at all and the system interpreted that as "not college material".

    I finished in the middle of the pack in High School. Yet, my poker group in High School, about 10 of us, all were in the top 25 students---except me.

    After my time at the local JC, I transferred to the University of California at Davis. In that first Quarter, I got hit in the teeth with a baseball bat metaphorically by the fast paced and much more difficult academics. The long semester system at the JC just allowed me to skid on the ice as I had in High School.

    Thanks to a program of Planned Educational Leave at UCD, I took a year off and traveled Europe. When I got back I was more focused and ready to study.

    Given that we are all living longer, I think all colleges and universities should make kids take a year off 1/2 way though and force them to travel.

    This is a way of conquering the mid-way problem of failure as well as to allow students to ponder if they are studying that which is really suited to their world.

    A local JC with good paths to a "big time college" and a year abroad can be very good things.