One in six first-year university students will not make the grade

For someone who considers herself a responsible and mature person, Natalie Czerwinski is coping a lot worse than she thought she would during her first month of university.

TORONTO — For someone who considers herself a responsible and mature person, Natalie Czerwinski is coping a lot worse than she thought she would during her first month of university.

“It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be,” said the 17-year-old English student at the University of Toronto. “High schools don’t prepare you very well for lectures ’cause they really spoon feed you’.”

“They speak very slowly and put everything on the board, and you copy it down and you know exactly what they want you to know, whereas here it’s a lecture, and for an hour a guy’s talking and you’re like, ‘Oh My God I don’t know what to write’.”

Students and professors argue high schools don’t adequately prepare teens for one of the most stressful transition periods they will face — their first year of university. And about one in six students never complete their studies.

About 14 per cent of first-year students drop out, according to the Persistence in Post-Secondary Education in Canada report, which analyzed data from Statistics Canada’s Youth in Transition Survey.

The overall post-secondary drop out rate was about 16 per cent, suggesting that those who are going to drop out, do so early on.

The YITS followed 963,000 students who were 18 to 20-years-old in 2000 and participated in post-secondary education by 2005.

Survey results from the students who left school suggest that they were already struggling with meeting deadlines, academic performance and study behaviour in their first year.

Consequently, more of them thought about leaving in their first year, said Danielle Shaienks, a senior analyst at Statistics Canada.

In another survey conducted by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations this year, 55 per cent of university professors and librarians said first-year students were less prepared than students just three years earlier.

Respondents reported a decline in students’ writing and numeric skills, an over-reliance on Internet resources, lower maturity levels, and an expectation of success without the requisite effort.

Ken Coran, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation said smaller class sizes in universities would give students the attention they need to succeed.

“(In university) the class sizes are bigger and it’s easier for a student to sense they’re not being monitored as closely as in high school,” he said.

Czerwinski said large classes make her feel isolated.

In high school, all of her teachers knew her name, but in university she feels like her professors are not approachable.

But professors say many first-year students just aren’t adequately prepared.

About one-third of students find their studies “really stressful,” partly because they are not accustomed to the academic rigours of university, said James Cote, a sociology professor at the University of Western Ontario.

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