At the risk of over-simplification, I wonder sometimes if success in college can be anticipated by recognizing the difference between being in college and at college. Those engaged in academic coaching may wish to make explicit the use of these two prepositions in working with college-bound high school students.
In my academic coaching work, I suggest that students think of themselves as being in college if they intend to take four years of their lives, study hard, learn a great deal, and prepare for a post-college life with the benefits of having a good education and a good network of success-minded friends and former classmates. This requires skills at time management, self-discipline, goal-setting, the implementation of a strategic plan for goal-attainment, and an ability to defer gratification in furtherance of achieving a diploma that reflects preparation for a rewarding life.
On the other hand, students are at college, if they have decided (sometimes implicitly) to live in a college town for four years, make new friends, and spend four years at what former Secretary of Education, William Bennett, calls “subsidized dating.” This four years is a period of time during which, for many, the challenges of paying bills, securing housing, and transitioning to adulthood are postponed, and the cost of this postponement are assumed by those who pay for the college experience.
Success in college may be facilitated if the pre-college conversation includes attention to whether the soon-to-be college student plans to have an “in college experience” or an “at college experience.”
Andrew J. Billups, PsyD