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Self-Compassion Can Motivate College Dropouts

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college dropouts

The majority of college students do not graduate in four-years, whether it is due to changing majors, dropping courses, taking time off, or changing expectations of curriculum. The high school-to-college pipeline is responsible for 30% of college students dropping out during their first year. By year six, 56% of students have dropped out. It is natural for college dropouts to feel like they have given up on their goals, but shame around dropping out of college can lead to losing motivation to make different goals. Self-compassion can motivate college dropouts to rebuild their relationship with themselves and look at their situation as an opportunity to explore what they truly value.

Challenging Fears of Failure

The New York Times reports, “many teenagers go away to college only to recognize — either because of their grades, their habits, their mental health or all of the above — that they’re not ready for college life.” Many young adults worry that dropping out of college is a reflection of their ability to succeed in the real world. Instead, it is usually not the time or the right place for them to try to pursue an academic degree for a variety of factors that do not reflect who they are as a person. 

Common reasons for dropping out include lack of motivation, family emergencies, financial aid, change in career aspirations, college preparedness, lack of college value, and employment. Taking a step back and looking at reasons leading to the decision to take time off college can help young adults recognize that they made an informed decision that was in their best interest at the time. 

Rebuilding a Relationship With Oneself

Many young adults struggle with low self-esteem after dropping out of college and allow these beliefs to cloud their perception of the future. Low self-esteem can reinforce unhealthy coping mechanisms that make it difficult to change how young adults feel about themselves. “Self-esteem is a judgment about how valuable I am: very valuable, not so good, not so valuable at all,” claims Dr. Kristen Neff, author of Self-Compassion: the Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself. “Self-compassion isn’t about self-evaluation at all. It’s about being kind to oneself.” 

Rebuilding a relationship with oneself involves self-forgiveness and self-compassion, which lead to learning goals instead of performance goals, such as trying the same things again and expecting different results. Neff explains, “self-compassion is a healthy source of self-worth because it’s not contingent and it’s unconditional. It’s much more stable over time because it is not dependent on external markers of success, such as grades.” 

Staying Motivated to Reach One’s Goals

For many people, self-criticism is the number one way we motivate ourselves. Many people who have taken time off school feel rushed to return due to shame and fear of perceived failure. They do not allow themselves time to focus on their personal needs and re-evaluate their goals. Although they feel like they have disappointed others by not reaching their previous goals, they struggle to question whether their goals were realistic in the first place–for where they were at the time and in general. 

Transitional living programs, like Journey Home East, work with young women reintegrating into the community after leaving school and going to residential treatment. Mentors offer guidance as they look at their values and establish short-term goals that will lead to personal success. 

Journey Home East emphasizes that reaching out for help does not mean you are incapable of reaching your goals, but rather, that you are committed to learning skills that will help you feel better prepared to accomplish them. Mentors helping college dropouts to practice self-compassion by trading criticism for supportive feedback, modeling compassionate self-talk, and encouraging them to befriend themselves. 

Journey Home East Can Help

Journey Home East is a transitional living program for young women ages 16-21. This program focuses on helping women transition from long-term treatment to the real world. While they are at our program, we help build confidence in young adults. The idea is to ween them off support systems of being in programs for many years and hone in on functional living skills they need to be independent. Journey Home East helps with scheduling for school, classes, work, internships. This program also provides health coaching, relationship building, dating safety and personal safety tips. Students have the opportunity to equip themselves with the skills they need to lead healthy and successful lives post-treatment.

Contact us at +18552909684. We can help your family today!