The College Puzzle Blog
Prior PostingsAbout
Dr. Michael W. Kirst

Michael W. Kirst is Professor Emeritus of Education and Business Administration at Stanford University since 1969.
Dr. Kirst received his Ph.D. in political economy and government from Harvard. Before joining the Stanford University faculty, Dr. Kirst held several positions with the federal government, including Staff Director of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Manpower, Employment and Poverty. He was a former president of the California State Board of Education. His book From High School to College with Andrea Venezia was published by Jossey Bass in 2004.

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My blog discusses the important and complex subjects of college completion, college success, student risk factors (for failing), college readiness, and academic preparation. I will explore the pieces of the college puzzle that heavily influence, if not determine, college success rates.

1st Entry: The Puzzle of College Success

This blog, (my first), is a way of discussing the important but technically complex subject of college success. I have spent a great deal of time analyzing and explaining success (graduation) rates in our nation's colleges. The topic was discussed, somewhat briefly, in a New York Times article dated September 2, 2006, Students Eager But Unprepared. One of my comments was the Times quote of the day: "You can get into school. But you cannot succeed."

That article focused on only one, albeit major, piece of the puzzle that heavily influences, if not determines, college success -- college preparedness or college readiness. Because of what I have labeled the disconnect ( between our K-12 system and our college system -- far too many students enter college who are not prepared for college and its academic rigor.

The New York Times article discussed college preparedness far more thoroughly than this brief and initial blog entry. But, it’s important to understand that even with superior academic preparation, college success is far from assured. There are several other integral and interlocking pieces at work -- a veritable puzzle of opportunities, risks, and characteristics. Prospective students and existing students must be sensitive to their unique circumstances, their unique puzzle, because ignoring it may set the student up for failure.

College failure stems from many causes, not just high school course work. Crucial factors include: personal commitment, family and peer group support, cost, time management, fit between career interests and college programs, study habits, and continuous postsecondary enrollment. These many factors can be visualized as pieces of a puzzle that must exist in a positive manner and fit together for enhancing probable success in finishing college programs.

For most students it is a lot easier to get in to college, than it is to successfully get out. Some prospective students may be better off waiting to enter until they have adequate financial resources or uncommitted time. I'll explore more of these factors and puzzle pieces in future entries.

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