The sun has been waking me up pretty early lately. As I lie in bed cursing the circadian rhythm, I’ve been thinking about transitions. There’s the smooth one we experience each day — from night to day, then back again. And then there’s the more difficult weather transition from spring to summer.
But the transition that’s been on my mind most is the one from high school student to college student. Our students are right in the thick of that transition right now. They’ve just graduated from high school and are still excited about the prospect of the new worlds they’ll experience when college starts.
Yet over the course of the summer, that excitement wanes. A study of Milwaukee Public School seniors in 2009 showed that while 72% expressed they were “bound for college,” only 40.9% were actually enrolled come fall. While that enrollment number is inching up slowly, it’s still far too low.
Why does it happen? As students spend more and more days outside of school, and more of their time is devoted to their summer jobs, their focus gets distracted. Critical college enrollment tasks — accepting financial aid packages, attending summer orientation, registering for classes — get pushed to the wayside. Add to the distractions the fact that summer in Milwaukee is the best time to be out and it makes for a dangerous time for college-bound students.
Dangerous because students need to keep their eyes on the college ball. That’s why we work extra hard over the summer to coach, cajole and cheer on our students. Our Transition Team helps students keep their focus on the bigger picture of college. We remind them of the tasks they need to complete, assist them in planning over the summer and serve as the consistent reminder — stay focused on college.
Our goal is to help make the transition to college less like our fickle seasonal weather transition with its two steps forward and one step back, and more like the dawn — a smooth transition from night to day. With all the work our students have done in high school, they deserve to be there on day one — waking up with the first light on that August morning, ready to begin life as a college student.
Edie Turnbull has served as the College Possible Milwaukee Executive Director since 2011.