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The Christmas Conversation: Helping Students Graduate In 4 Years

December 12, 2018
four years
The best time to ensure your student is on track to graduate in four years is right now. Christmas Break affords parents and students the chance to talk and measure progress toward graduation and to make plans to avoid becoming part of a growing number of students needing additional semesters or years in school to graduate. You can help your student analyze his or her happiness with their choice of major and consider whether or not it’s the right one for them. It all begins with the simple act of talking to your student.

Dr. Blaine McCormick and Baylor University released a series of YouTube videos packed with information to help students and families plan to graduate in four years. You can watch the videos, starting with the first edition, “How To Graduate In Four Years,” by clicking here. To watch the entire video series delving into tips and considerations to graduate in four years, click here.

The Implications

Over 60 percent of college students take more than four years to graduate—a staggering statistic with massive financial implications for hundreds of thousands of families. Dr. Blaine McCormick, Chair of Management in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business, has spent years analyzing the rising costs of college. As he studied, one aspect of collegiate costs particularly leapt out at him.

“It seemed to me the best way to contain the rising cost of college,” Dr. McCormick said, “was to graduate in four years. It really became very clear and, for over a decade now, it’s been a passion.”

Dr. McCormick says graduating in four years begins with a plan. A great way to ensure your first-year student is on the right track begins with having a Christmas conversation.

The Christmas Conversation

What is the Christmas Conversation? It’s a conversation between a first- or second-year student and parents about the student’s major. Is it the right fit? Is the student enjoying it or struggling in it? An open and honest conversation now can help your student down the line. There are many reasons for this timely conversation.

“If you have degrees of uncertainty about your major, the longer you wait and pursue the wrong course of action, the lower the odds of you graduating in four years,” Dr. McCormick says. “If a student does not have a high degree of certainty by the end of the first semester, they should try something else.”

If a student switches his or her major at the end of the first semester of college, it’s easier to stay on track to graduate in four years. Summer school, or a few additional hours in a semester, could suffice to get him or her back on track. However, students who wait to switch until after their first year, or in their second year, may be looking at an additional semester or year of school along with the financial implications an additional year brings.

Which students should consider switching their major?

“Focus on certainty,” Dr. McCormick says. “If the student doesn’t have certainty that this major is what they want, you really should consider switching.”

You can learn more about The Christmas Conversation in Blaine McCormick’s “How To Graduate In Four Years” video.

The Next Step

It’s important to remember that your student can always ask for help.

Perhaps your student wants to change his or her major, but is unsure of a new course of study. It’s very common for students to need guidance, and Baylor offers personal assistance. The Paul L. Foster Success Center provides numerous resources through the Office of Career and Professional Development to help students find the right major. From career exploration assessments to individual meetings with counselors, your student will receive personalized attention to help him or her make this important decision.

Students can also talk through these decisions with their advisor and devise a plan with the guidance of an advisor whose goal is to help them find the right fit along their academic journey and graduate in four years. Students need only ask.

“The most powerful phrase you can use in these moments is ‘I need help,’” Dr. McCormick says. “Advisors will respond to that and your department will respond to that. But if you don’t say you need help, it could be a costly decision. A good plan with a strong focus now can help you get out and start earning on time, and save you and your family down the road. I encourage parents and students to have an honest conversation that can help students assess whether they’re on the path that’s right for them.
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