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The first week of September is the start of a new school year for our post secondary students. The statistics compiled by the Canadian Union of Students is a concern: "one in four university students experienced mental health issues. 89% felt overwhelmed and sadly 10% had suicidal concerns that needed medical attention."

The universities are trying to cope with the problem but the reality is that they are hard pressed to help students who acknowledge that they are having a problem having to await 4-6 months for an appointment. For too many it is too little/too late and they simply drop out of school.

The reasons why students have trouble adjusting to university/college differs with each student. Many find themselves away from home for the first time without the support of parents/siblings and friends in a completely new environment. The first weeks of school are exciting and scary where there are few constraints and set rules to follow.

For the most part the large universities (30,000 students) have mega first year classes of a thousand students or more in one lecture hall. The professor pontificates and the students take notes. University students try and juggle five - eight courses at a time.

High school enrolments have in total 800-1,200 students with class sizes of 30-40 student per teacher for a maximum four courses where the students are encouraged to ask questions.

It is easy to fall between the cracks in university. Cutting classes leads to poor attendance and failing grades. Lack of motivation, lethargy and the desire to attend school seems useless. Many find themselves not sleeping, eating and feeling depressed with no one to help them to understand their problems.

The universities choose the top ten percent of high school students to attend their campuses, The competition is fierce with the likes of Queen’s University June 2012 cut offs of 87% admission grades for many of their programs,
For the first time in their lives many students who had previously achieved high marks with little or no effort in high school find that they have to run fast just to keep up with their class mates. For those who can’t make the grade they will be asked to withdraw and be designated Christmas grads having to stay out of school for an additional year and then re-apply.

Our young people have rarely had to deal with failure in their lives. They and their parents/society have high expectations that they would do well in university to be able to graduate and find a meaningful career in law, business along with an expensive life style. You know the accolades expected that indicate my son/daughter is a doctor/lawyer and therefore a success story. When they can’t succeed students see themselves as failures.

I have a few suggestions to perhaps help the successful transition for your son/daughter to a post secondary education. Planning should start in grade eleven to see the course requirements/cut offs of the various university/college/apprentice programs.

On line enquiries followed by on site visits are mandatory to check out and compare schools and programs. Think global and look local to find excellent undergraduate programs close to home.

Try to check out the employable prospects for related work after attending four years of schooling. Too many of our university grads find themselves unemployed/underemployed where there education was little or no help in securing paid meaningful employment.

The University of Western Ontario along with the "Three Diamonds", King’s/Huron/Brescia University College have excellent programs. It is sure hard to travel home to London for a week-end when you have chosen to go to school in Montreal or Vancouver when you want to see your family.
University tuition residence living expenses are expensive. You can save thousands of dollars when your daughter/son live at home and not have to take on large debts. Having to work at Starbucks till the wee hours during the week to help pay the bills sure hurts accademic success.

When your son/daughter reach the age of eighteen they are considered adults and parents do not have access to the university records. If there is not a two way communication you will not be aware of how your youngster is fairing.

Try and keep daily contact via the phone to see how your youngster is doing. We use World Line services to keep in touch with our children/grandchildren which allows us to talk 24/7 for as long as we want for $4.95 per month.

It is very important for your son/daughter to know that you unconditionally love, respect and support them. Help them to try and balance their desire to do well academically while prioritizing their needs for health and happiness is paramount.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com