Showing posts with label personal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label personal. Show all posts

Thursday, 28 September 2017

How to ensure that First Year @ University is a success

Logic of Failure - Metaphysics of Success

Many universities are concerned about failure rates. It is not uncommon for 25% of students to fail to complete their first year successfully. 

Academics are mildy irritated that they are constantly under pressure from the management to improve success rates. Rather cruel responses might run like this:

" I'm sorry, it is really beyond my control if you break up with your girlfriend in week 3 and stop attending classes."

[But depression is a REAL problem for some students. Check out this article: Yes, you can crawl out of your first-year depression at university  | Nell Frizzell ]

"Am I responsible if you lose the power of motion because you've been living on nothing but porridge oats for the last term before the exams, having spent your parents' money on beer."

"I can recommend counselling services. Remember ... you are now deemed to be an adult; you will be expected to take responsibility for your life. Time for a reality check?"

"Is it my problem if your only relationship effort went into your Xbox/ Nintendo / ipad/ SKY-tv ?"

On a more serious note, the most common reasons for dropping out or failing your first year are

- inability to adjust to life away from the safety, ease and security of homelife

- lack of independent revision skills

- acquisition of a drink or drug habit
- homesickness

- a disastrous and traumatic first year relationship

- pregnancy or serious illness

- lack of motivated study, planning and work skills

- failure to adapt to the new level of work expected in academia

- lethargy, indolence, incompetence

- doing a job full time rather than working on your degree

- having made the wrong choice of location, or university

- loneliness, depression, mental breakdown

- starvation or malnutrition; inability to cook

- failure to attend classes and exams

- poverty, poor financial planning and bankruptcy

- family bereavement or other crisis

- not understanding the requirements of the degree syllabus

- over-indulgence in leisure activities, especially solo

Play is a reward - not a replacement - for academic work achieved

Clearly there are both academic and socio-psychological-personal reasons for failure.

Students seldom drop out or fail because they are judged not to be brainy enough! Most hard-working students will have a very successful and enjoyable first year. So keep a sense of balance and maintain a sense of proportion. If you start to feel excessively pressured or anxious seek help early from tutors or from student services.

Generally the bar is set quite low in all but the most elite universities and in all but the most competitive subjects. In fact, you would be surprised how poor some of the academic work is that gains a pass. In my opinion some of it is GCSE standard. Having said that, will you be employable with a third class degree (=40%) ? By taking your first year seriously you establish strong skills that will be a firm foundation for your future progress.

The answer is probably yes if you have excelled in your extra-curricular activities and in your networking. I'm told that sport, volunteering and drama are recommended for character-building, confidence and leadership.

The good news, however, is that the pass rates for second and third year are typically 95%.

But there are also some other issues that require further explanation. 

For instance, across the US, the drop-out rate averages 25%, but you are twice as like to drop out if you are Hispanic, Black, or American Indian, compared to being a White student, research suggests. Why does this happen? 


Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(2013) and 
11+ English  (2015). Also available on Kindle, or to download.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Tips on Personal Statements for entry to Universities / UCAS

This was my Hall of Residence at University in Scotland

Personal Statements for entry to British Universities
  • Scrap any items that are trivial, too personal, or really not relevant to your university course.
  • Link facts about your experience to the values and skills learned
  • Language should be clear and precise. Avoid rhetorical flourishes and stilted language
  • Check reports, comments and reviews of your work for tangible positive statements.
  • Always ask other professionals to read your draft statement. Thinking critically and creatively about the feedback offered.
  • Don’t let yourself down with grammatical mistakes, awkward style and spelling mistakes. These send alarm bells ringing and indicate that you lack a professional approach.
  • Humour is always a risk and generally to be avoided, unless you are applying for a degree in  Comedy.
  • Remember that any claims that you make will be tested at your interview. Don’t say that you have read Tolstoy’s War and Peace unless you’re prepared to talk about it.
  • Specificity always beats a stream of vague generalisations.
  • Avoid detailed discussions of negatives and weaknesses. On the other hand it can be effective if you explain clearly how you successfully overcame obstacles or challenges during your life.
  • Avoid the personal development clich├ęs and the tired rhetoric of X-factor based on ‘how much do you really want this?”
  • Arrogantly making grand claims about your brilliance tends to irritate admissions’ tutors.
  • Avoid “Great Quotes” from famous people; the originality and wit must be yours.
  • You don’t stand out simply by listing all your work experience, your volunteering since the age of 5, or your travel itineraries. But these should be mentioned if you are able to demonstrated what you have learnt from these activities. This is also an opportunity to demonstrate the qualities of a reflective learner
  • What is your unique selling point? What is special about you? This does not need to be a long list.
  • The first sentence of each paragraph needs to send a strong message.
Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(Quibble Academic, 2013). He served for several years as a University Professor, Senior Lecturer, Widening Participation Officer and Admissions' Tutor.