Helping Our Boys Envision a Future

By Vince Benevento

The transition to college is stressful for everyone—but it can be particularly trying for students with LD and ADHD who underperformed in high school. For a number of those students the move will be so overwhelming that they will not complete it successfully.

Who are these kids?

They come from the place you’d least expect: caring families who have been able to pay for intensive support. These are kids—mostly young men—whose parents expect them to attend college. For the most part, they have had access to support services, tutors, and modifications to their learning program. Still they struggled. Their parents are well-versed in the language of learning differences. And still they struggled.

These are the kids who couldn’t initiate dialogue with teachers, balance school and social calendars, or see the value in academia. They are the young men who, high school diplomas in hand, we expect to transition to a new phase of life without parental guidance.

The chasm between the amount of support these boys receive in high school and the level of self-direction required to succeed in college is too wide to bridge alone. So, in the absence of help, these are the boys who fall through the cracks.

Accustomed to their parents pulling the strings, they simply cannot take the reins of their own lives.

Recent studies bear this out. As of 2006, only 42% of college students were male, down from nearly 58% in 1970. Between 1977 and 2003, the number of women earning college degrees soared by 86%; the number of men inched up by just 16%.

Addressing the Problem

The academic needs of these boys are glaring, but they can be addressed by the same supports that were available in high school.

What too often goes unaddressed is their need for emotional support. The stress at this phase of their lives is both paralyzing and made worse by deficits in their ability to cope. From uncertainty about how to manage their time to an environment characterized by indulgence of all kinds, college can seem a confusing maze. In college, even good students eat poorly, sleep too little, drink too much, and careen between skipping classes and cramming.

These young men must be taught the skills they need to navigate this world. They need to learn how to structure their day in order to maximize productivity and practice routines for mind and body. They need to understand parental and societal expectations and build awareness of problematic behaviors including emotional and physical triggers, and when to say enough.

Envisioning A Future

These are valuable objectives, but the greatest motivator for a young man is a vision of where he is headed. It’s essential, therefore, to have conversations that focus on clarifying the future. Values-based discussion can help a young man identify who he is and who and what he aspires to be.

Research activities can provide a frame of reference for what prospective careers look like in the real world. Honing a young man’s professional etiquette will help him prepare more effectively for both work and life after college. That isn’t to say that college students should matriculate certain of what profession they’ll pursue upon graduation. It does suggest, however, that academic buy-in can be the difference between four—or fewer—years of wasted time and the best years of your life.

Vince Benevento is the owner and director of Causeway Collaborative, located in Westport, CT. Causeway helps students prepare for the transition from high school to college and into the real world.

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