Being in Class

To better understand the student experience, navigate across these themes to hear from students who have shared their stories with us.

Being in Class

The experience of “being in class” is distinctly different from time spent in between courses or planning for education. It is the time of active learning, when students expect to have tangible evidence that their efforts are purposeful and worthwhile. Whether in the traditional classroom, group work or in online forums, students begin to understand how their school fits with their expectations around academic training. They are constantly evaluating how well the content, teaching style, curriculum and classmates meet their needs.

Zahra, Undergraduate Student
Zahra is finding the right fit at her school, which is leading her to academic success. She has had the benefit of connecting with a strong advisor, who is passionate about keeping her on track. Zahra compares the differences in teaching methods between her favorite and least favorite professors, something she may not have really considered before.

being in class

Jason is serious about his decision to go to school and works hard to make the most out of his classroom experience. Read more

Adapting to School

Regardless of age, adapting to life as a student is a process that involves adjusting to new intellectual demands, balancing these demands with life, making social connections, and gaining confidence to successfully maneuver in this new world. 50 percent of students who attend college drop out or fail out; of these 33 percent do so within their first year. According to American College Testing (ACT), one in every four students leaves college before completing sophomore year. Many students reported that they found the transition into college to be difficult and felt underprepared.

“Younger students tend to see their education as a pathway to adulthood, while older students, who may have children and are returning from former professional experiences, possess a different vantage point of maturity and focus.” —Grace Chen, Community College Review, 1.26.09

"People say, ‘He don’t hang out with us anymore. Look at him, he’s dressed differently.’ Here’s the thing, for every kid that I see on the streets, you know, if I see 100 in a day I’d be lucky if I saw one dressed how I am right now. So, it’s like I am an outsider." Jhan, Undergraduate

Doris, Undergraduate Student
Adjusting to a college environment can be difficult and even traumatic. Students who need help often do not know how or where to ask for it. Even though Doris is passionate about education she had to take a class that was not for credit to help her understand how to manage her schedule, connect with other students and get on the right track to academic success.

Balancing School with Life

While some students have the finances, support and personal freedom to dedicate themselves solely to the pursuit of an education, for many students, the reality is filled with non-academic related responsibilities. First generation, immigrant and older students are particularly likely to have significant family responsibilities, financial struggle and lack of support. As much as these students would like to make school their number one priority, they are often faced with making difficult trade-offs when trying to balance school with life demands.

Kim, Undergraduate Student
Working full-time while in school would have taken Kim 10 years to graduate, so she opted for a part-time job and a shorter time to degree completion.

Winston, Technical School Student
Winston feels a good teacher cares for each individual student and doesn't let anyone fall behind.

Kevin Kisner

Understanding the Quality of an Education

Many students reported a desire to have clear correlation between their coursework and the job they believe they will have. This was true across majors and disciplines. Yet when asked how they know they are getting a good education, many students struggled to answer. Students often evaluate the quality of their education by how meaningful it feels rather then by practical outcomes. While personal evaluation is a crucial consideration, students often miss the opportunity to evaluate their experience against more quantitative dimensions until after the experience is over.

Charlie, Undergraduate Student
Charlie had "no idea" what he was getting into. Talking to upperclassmen and alumni helped him gain perspective.


Time to Completion

Most students do not follow a four-year trajectory though. Students cited financial hurdles, academic challenges and personal issues as major factors that slowed their progress. First-time recipients of bachelor's degrees (who had taken no more than 6 months of time off from school) took ~55 months to complete a degree. Graduates who had attended multiple institutions took longer to complete a degree. Those who attended one institution averaged 51 months to complete a bachelor's degree, compared with 59 months for those who attended two institutions and 67 months for those who attended three or more. This pattern was found among graduates of both public and private not-for-profit institutions. The type of institution was also related to time to degree: graduates of public institutions averaged about 6 months longer to complete a degree than graduates of private, not-for-profit institutions. Given these extended time lines, is somewhat easier to understand why so many students "stop out" of college before completing a degree.

[I like my school] because all of the teachers have worked in the field….these guys actually have ‘been there and done that,’ so I know what they are teaching me is good.” Shawn, Technical School Student