Three years ago I listened to the Dean of Students of the Music School at Central Michigan University tell the prospective student-parents about the challenges facing college freshman. Given the drop-out rate freedom wreaks some tragic consequences on wide-eyed first year students. Institutions spend time helping them navigate this new terrain by guiding them through activities, class schedule, and time management; all of which provides some success. The question remains: Is there a determining factor that curbs the freshman drop-out rate?
According to Steve Carlson the Director of Career Services at Grace College (Winona Lake, IN) there is a statistically proven method for the success of retention.
Every Freshman Knows Their Strengths
For the past five years, this private Christian college consisting of four schools provides Freshman Foundations curriculum where every student can learn their unique strengths. Similar to the popular StrengthsFinder 2.0, they’ve made a commitment to offer StrengthsQuest which Carlson refers to as “a powerful instrument to help young people discover their passion in life.” They’ve even gone so far as to train residence hall directors in strengths so that they can offer a “strengths-based living environment.” Carlson continues to use the tool in his career counseling with students, reflecting a true commitment to the student’s unique wiring.
Faculty Advising and Intervention
It’s no surprise that while young adults need to find their way, they are best served when they are in a caring community of peers and mentors who have their best interest in mind. Again, Grace College not only recognizes this need but also is intentional with its potential. The Student Affairs staff member who worked on his Ph.D. dissertation concluded that the implementation of StrengthsQuest combined with early faculty advising/intervention was the only statistically significant factor that contributed to the increase in retention of freshman students. Carlson said he was already hooked. Now armed with this empirical data his division of career services started exploring ways to “expand the use of the instrument with our students.”
Know Your Strengths
This morning I picked up my AARP magazine and award-winning journalist Jane Pauley admitted in an article that around the age of fifty she took the test and found her five dominant talent themes. Like most people she could enumerate her weaknesses and was hard-pressed to name her strengths. “I was hard put to name one strength. I hadn’t updated my self-image in decades.” Like most people who take the test she was surprised by the results, while at the same time her sister and husband declared about the test, “It nailed her.”
At that point she embarked on a journey to reintroduce herself to herself by embracing and living out of her strengths. “Sometimes the things that give most pleasure, meaning, and purpose to our lives are obvious to everyone but us. So if you’re wondering where you go from here, a little reintroduction may help you see that your hidden self was in plain sight all along.”
Knowing your strengths will transform your life!
Whether you’re an eighteen year-old first-year student away from home or a Baby-Boomer ready to get the most out of the time that’s left, make a decision today: Learn your strengths, embrace them, and arrange your approach to life around your strengths.
You won’t drop out of college or life if you do!