Episode 5: The Starter Key to “Adulthood”

Episode 5: The Starter Key to “Adulthood”

As parents, we pride ourselves on getting our teenagers ready to take off and succeed on their own. We have placed them into schools with a similar hope that they will leave prepared with skills to make good choices and to adjust to new challenges. But is that
enough? There is no disagreement among experts that it takes more than just raw talent to succeed in school, a job, or in life. So what does it take? On today’s podcast, my dear friend, esteemed colleague, and college counseling expert Nancy Beane will discuss the nature of the relationship between the ‘noncognitive factors,’ often referred to as soft skills, and college readiness. She believes that the key to a solid start to adulthood is well-developed Executive Function.

* This is Nancy’s first episode that discusses how important Executive Function is to life success.

About Nancy Beane

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Nancy Beane grew up in Tennessee.  She graduated with honors with a B.A. in History from Agnes Scott College, has an M.A. T. in History from UNC-Chapel Hill, and has an Ed.S. in Social Studies from Georgia State University.  Counting her student teaching, she spent fifteen years in public schools at every grade level but eighth before moving to The Westminster Schools in 1989. There she taught history until 2015 and has done college counseling since 1992.  Her fervent belief is that every person has the potential for a positive future, and she has always encouraged her students to take advantage of opportunities for growth and development while believing in themselves.
She has been actively involved in various professional organizations and is currently the President of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC).  She also served as President of the Southern Association for College Admission Counseling (SACAC) from 2004 to 2005, was a member of the Board of Directors of NACAC from 2008-2011, and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Association of College Counselors in Independent Schools (ACCIS) from 2012-2015.  She has been actively involved with College Board and the Georgia Independent Colleges Association.  She is an Associate Member of the Georgia Independent Counselors Association (GSCA) and an Affiliate Member of ASCA.

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Want to find out what the starter key to adulthood is? Listen to #FullPreFrontal Click To Tweet #NancyBeane says being somewhat fearful of upcoming college experience is not a bad thing Click To Tweet #NancyBeane on steps to take before stepping into real world #ExecutiveFunction Click To Tweet

Transcript

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Todd Schnick: Alright, welcome back to Full PreFrontal. I am here with our host, Sucheta Kamath. Good morning, my friend, what’s on tap for today?

Sucheta Kamath: We’re going to talk about college, college life, and college failure. I’m going to share a story of a student I worked with. His name is Robert and obviously, that’s not his real name, but Robert got into a very prestigious college. He was extremely bright and did phenomenally well in high school, and when I say phenomenally well, he looked good on paper. He did not have all the habits and tools, rather he knew what the habits should be and what tools he could have access to but he was not a great user of the tools or he didn’t exercise of those habits, but he succeeded because he had two very dedicated parents. He had a college counselor who loved him. He had a great school where he went and it had great inbuilt structure. They had a support system for him, so obviously, Robert had no problems getting accepted in college, and summer before he started college, Robert definitely didn’t do much. He didn’t take up a job, he didn’t travel, he just kind of hung around in town and partied as many times as he could. He drove around, he watched a lot of Netflix, he chilled, as he described it to me. Then came college and started freshman year. With a bang, he enrolled in five classes against his parents’ advice. His parents somehow didn’t anticipate in what ways Robert may run into a problem, so Robert decided not to share anything with his parents. I want to just share just one example. Robert had a class, it was a freshman intro class. All he had to do was literally visit many places on campus and kind of fill out this in a blog or answer these questions. There was no class to attend. It was a curriculum to really get Robert to become aware of the campus. It was a one credit class and it was impossible to fail the class. You will only fail if you did not do these simple assignments, and guess what? Robert failed the freshman introductory class. Now, who Robert refused to share this information with his parents continued to enroll in spring semester and his failure continued, and again, this failure was not really because Robert lacked the capacity to process mathematics or he had difficulty with English. It really wasn’t any of that. It was literally getting Robert to show up for classes. It was getting Robert to take notes. Robert really didn’t like one professor and he actually stopped completing his assignments. Robert twice did not turn in a paper that he had written. So as you can imagine, by end of his spring semester, his GPA plummeted to 2.3. By then, he got put on academic probation, and that’s when parents found out, and that’s when they all contacted me. So I worked with a lot of Roberts of the world and one of the things that I’m excited to talk to Nancy about who is a college counselor, is what happened to Robert? How did this gap got created between Robert’s success at the time when he exited high school and then literally did not manage to complete even the freshman year with decent success? So let’s get into it.

Todd: Yes, well, I can tell you, Sucheta, as you well know, that’s a very common tale, what happened to Robert, so looking forward to this conversation with Nancy Beane, so let’s get to it. Here’s Sucheta and Nancy Beane.

Sucheta: Today, our guest is Nancy Beane. Nancy is the current president of the National Association for College Admission and she’s also an associate director of college counseling at the Westminster schools, a prestigious private school here in Atlanta. Nancy started as a public school teacher for 15 years and then moved to Westminster where she has taught history for 26 years and also have done college counseling. Nancy has been celebrated for her outstanding contributions to the admission counseling, recognized for her inspiring leadership and has been honored for showing dedication to her students that she serves. In 2011, she received the Larry West Award, a highest award given by the Southern Association for College Admissions Counseling. This year, she has won a college award, Southern Region Counselor of the Year award. Nancy’s fervent belief is that every person has the potential for a positive future and she has always encouraged her students to take advantage of opportunities for growth and development while believing in themselves, and just on interest of a full disclosure, I have had a privilege of seeing Nancy’s work in action through the students we have shared together and as a college counselor, she has transformed my own son’s life with her loving guidance, so I can’t wait to have Nancy as our guest today.

Welcome to the show, Nancy.

Nancy Beane: Thank you.

Sucheta: Your career obviously spans over so many years but also the kind of students you have seen. I would love for you to tell us a little bit about, since you help the students transition into college, what do you think are the special skills that go into becoming successful in college?

Nancy: Well, clearly, a student has to want to go to college, has to have the determination to persist. College is a big change for most of us when we go and so they had to be ready to do the academic work but they also have to be ready to adjust to many changes in their lives, and there are very few students that I think that have any idea what that means before they go.

Sucheta: Are there students in your experience, because Westminster as many of us in Atlanta know is a very prestigious private school, and majority of the parents aspire to send their children to college. Do you find that still some students may not be motivated or kind of invested in going to college?

Nancy: What we find sometimes is that students, because they lead such a busy lives, they may be exhausted with school, with the schedule that they’ve had because many of them have school during the day and then they play sports outside at school or they work outside of school, or they have other activities, and that creates an exhaustion for some of them, so yes, I do find that occasionally. I did have a parent one time who said to her daughter, “You’re not nearly mature enough to go to school and I’m not sending you next year,” and so that young lady took what we call a gap year which I would highly recommend for many students to consider and she worked in a soup kitchen for $50 a month.

Sucheta: Really?

Nancy: And a man stopped her, a homeless man stopped her on the street and asked her for money and she said she didn’t have any, and $50 a month, I don’t think she did but they had her room and board paid obviously, so I think she was much readier the next year when she did go to college and I think that was probably a smart move. It’s not one she would have chosen. I’ve had other students who have realized that they’re just not ready to go for one reason or another. It can be emotional, it can be academic, it can be other reasons, and so we have had students take a gap year between high school and college. I think their parents would probably worry about that, “Will my child ever go back to school?” if they take such. We don’t generally see that as being any problem at all at Westminster and so we have had, not a fair number, but several kids each year generally take a gap year.

Sucheta: That sounds so interesting to me because that actually, that artificial gap, I can see providing an opportunity to mature and those who haven’t really learned to exercise their balance can maybe have a chance to balance their lives without academic pressure right away, so let’s talk a little bit about this college readiness skills. What do you think is the difference between a smart student versus a successful student?

Nancy: Oh, good question. Well, we have many students at our school who are very bright and in that career in other schools, I certainly encountered many bright students. What I find is that we have students who may academically have a good background and be very smart but they may not be ready to undertake the kind of work they’ve got to do independently in college.

Sucheta: Can you give me an example of what those skills might be?

Nancy: Oh, yes. I think partly, it’s parents – our students really are very programmed, I find, so they go to school all day even if they play sports. They’ve got a coach who’s telling them what to do. If they’ve working, they’ve got a boss that’s telling them what to do, so for the most part, they don’t lead particularly independent lives where they have to be on top of the things very often of planning their own work. Actually, it’s interesting. We have an online academy that we associate with the Global Online Academy and those students do have to be much more in charge of their own learning but for the most part, they haven’t had to do that in the past, and so we find that sometimes, they’re not really ready to take that independent step for managing their own learning, so I would say the difference between a really smart student and a successful student is one that is able to work independently, that is going to manage his or her time well, get up on time, go to class on time, I think that’s critical, and what we hear is that a fair number of students don’t always go to class now because so much is online, because they can work with other students or whatever, and I think that’s problematic because I don’t think, personally, that there’s really – it’s not the same if you are just copying someone’s notes or if you’re just watching it on a PowerPoint or something like that, so I think it’s important for them to go.

Sucheta: So they are missing out on that interactive aspect of learning which is learning by observing others, being in company of others, the social aspect of learning?

Nancy: Yes. Yes.

Sucheta: So it’s interesting that you comment about, you said something beautiful which is those students who have been through a very intense educational experience yet may not have had any opportunity to manage their own learning independent of other supervisory interface or parental interface, coach, or private tutor, or even guidance counselors, those kinds of things, right?

Nancy: Yes.

Sucheta: And that I can see becoming a key factor that makes or breaks a student’s ability to sustain themselves through college because nobody’s watching them, nobody’s supervising them.

Nancy: And sometimes, the students that on paper and through testing and so forth are our brightest students may have the most trouble with this transition. If the work in their particular school, whether it’s our school or another school has not been quite as challenging for them personally, they may not form habits that they need to form to know how to study, so I’ll give you a couple of examples. I’ve had a young lady who came to me one time, she was in BC calculus and C Physics, the higher level, and she said, “I don’t know how to study.” She had a 1600 on the SAT and I honestly wasn’t sure how to help her that well. She did go to a major competitive university and she flunked out the first year, and the reason for that, I think, was that she honestly had never had to study until she hit those top, top classes and wasn’t really sure what to do. A second example was a young man who went to a state university, he lived in a different state than Georgia, and there was a woman who was working in the admissions office at that university, and she said, “I graduated three years ago and have been working here in admissions. He graduated with me. He was the valedictorian of the class, he never had to open a book, he never had to study, and he still hasn’t finished at our university.” So he just got there and he hit that brick wall, so there’s so much for any of us to learn. I don’t care how smart you are or not, and sometimes, I find that the students that have had to form the study habits because school hasn’t been easy for them, occasionally, have been more successful than those that appeared on paper anyway to be incredibly smart. And then third example is a young man who never turned his papers in on time ever in high school, and somehow, the teacher let him do that –

Sucheta: Prompted him?

Nancy: Prompted him and said, “Look, I’ll take it, I’ll take it late. Just make sure you get the paper in.” He went to college, it was a small liberal arts college, they weren’t going to put up with that, and within one semester, he flunked out. Now, I don’t want to give the impression that all of our students flunk out. Those are three extreme examples but I just think it’s important for students to know how to study and if they haven’t formed those good study habits, if they haven’t learned how to have manage their time without mom or dad telling them, without the teachers telling them, without coaches telling them, then I think they could run into some trouble.

Sucheta: And you’re shedding light on very important parts, Nancy, that I think we get carried away thinking about smart students’ capacity to enroll in college and get into college, and a lot of questions that we hope to address during this podcast is what makes them stay in college, and so thank you for sharing those difficult examples. They may be less frequent but they symbolize a chronic condition which brings us to talk about executive function, and in my experience, in my practice, these students would have been supported and presented, and I call it choreographed by their environment to get college ready, but the independence that you are referring to, that self-management that you’re referring to has not become part of their inner nature, and I see a gap between the way we educate our kids. We are teaching them but we’re not teaching them how to learn to learn, and so they’re not managing their learning because they are supported and helped which is essential – don’t get me wrong – but somehow, we need to also have that integral part of their transitional plan. So your career spans beyond 30 years and as a college counselor, as a teacher, as a mentor, when did you first hear the term executive function and has that understanding changed over time?

Nancy: Probably about 15 or 20 years ago I first heard the words executive functioning. I distinctly remember a young man who had grave difficulty at Westminster with his academic work and every time we had a counselor’s meeting or a great chair meeting, we would talk about this young man and the fact that he had difficulty functioning within our particular framework which was very difficult, very challenging academically, and incidentally, I saw a picture of him on Facebook recently with his wife and he’s doing very well in terms of his business evidently, so I think –

Sucheta: He matured.

Nancy: He did mature. That frontal lobe –

Sucheta: Caught up. [laughing]

Nancy: Finally caught up and developed. We understand that frontal lobes are – you know more about this than I do – but aren’t fully developed until you’re about 25 years old, and so for various reasons, yours, mine may be slower to develop than yours or vice versa and so that can cause me not to be able to do as well or you not to do as well at school and so I think that’s really important for families to understand. When I think about my own child, she didn’t walk until she was 14 months old but she played two varsity sports in high school, so just because a student’s frontal lobe doesn’t develop quite as fast or his executive functioning skills don’t develop quite as fast, does not mean that A, he’s not bright or she’s not bright, and that ultimately, that student won’t be successful because I think in most cases, I find that as long as people persist, and I think that’s a huge step toward being ready for college, if you persist, if you realize what you don’t know and you reach out for help, then I think you can adjust much better than if you just pretend it doesn’t exist and then you’re going to have big problems.

Sucheta: So that brings me to this interesting concept that’s related to executive function which is the self-management skills or self-regulatory skills, and what that means is, a student’s capacity to manage or control himself so that he thinks about his own future and works his way backwards, and takes different actions, takes different decisions so that it benefits the future himself, so not the current self. So the example would be, I’m really enjoying the Netflix third episode of Breaking Bad and I have two papers to write and I need to find a point to stop watching and to benefit that me who gets a better grade on that paper, and as you and I know, executive functions really impact that capacity to put a break on the current action that you’re doing so that it benefits that person which is you in the future. My concern about our current educational system or the way our students are prepared, that there is a genuine disconnect between a student’s concern for himself as a person in the future and the student’s engagement with the current responsibilities, and that’s a part of prefrontal cortex as well which a lot of students who actually suffer from these problems are not motivated to fix them, but what kind of roadblocks have you experienced as a good-faith adviser to these people who don’t follow up to your recommended course of action or preventative steps that you believe are really good for them?

Nancy: Well, I mentioned the young man that didn’t turn papers in on time and that’s one of the biggest roadblocks I see, is that students have gotten away with, if you want to say, not turning their work in on time, not doing their homework, not turning their work in on time, and frankly, that’s disastrous because I think on the college level from what I’ve understood and what I’ve seen, what I’ve experienced, you’re not going to turn in work late. You’re just not unless there’s some – your parent died or something really crucial, and so I think that’s one of the biggest roadblocks, is a student not understanding the timeliness of work and the fact that it has to be in by a certain time, a certain date, and if they don’t do that, they’re not going to get credit for it. So that’s one huge roadblock. I think another is what I mentioned a few minutes ago of not being willing to persist. “Oh, well, I flunked that, I’ll just drop that class, I failed that paper, I’ll just drop that class.” Well, you’re not going to finish very fast if you keep dropping classes, so I think sometimes students don’t understand that they need to go ahead and block out time. Most of our students aren’t used to having most of the day free to do work and all of a sudden, they may have one class that day, they may not have any classes that day, or they may have three, and so if they don’t have the ability to make themselves go to the library or go into another study area and get their work done, that can create some real problems.

Sucheta: This reminds me of one of the conversations, one of the important parts of training for college readiness that I do is kind of show this relationship between available time and its relationship to the responsibilities you have to take care of. If you look at the highschooler’s life, they are 40 to 60 hours of 166 hours week are accounted for. When you go to college, you are only required to show up for 12 hours, and remaining hours, you are free to manage or regulate, and that gives a huge problem for those students who have zero classes on Friday or they have all the classes on Wednesday and they’re back to back; they don’t even have time to have lunch, and so this creates such an imbalance, and that brings us back to this issue about when do I help me by changing my ways? What are your suggestions when parents come to you with concerns about these students? Do you feel the parents are attuned or aware of these problems or they feel it’s the schools responsibility to help students become independent in these areas?

Nancy: That’s a hard question because I think the parents do expect a lot of the teachers, of the counselors, and they certainly feel that a young person should be held accountable in terms of the work they’re doing, and they expect the teacher to hold them accountable. If a teacher doesn’t do that, I can see where a parent might be frustrated. Another issue could be that the parent says often, “Everything I know to do, my child would listen to me, so teacher, you fix it,” or “Counselor, you fix it and make sure it works,” so I do think that those can be real issues for them. The parent isn’t sure what to do to help and I think for the most part, it’s just incumbent on the student to get some help if they need help and we have counselors who specialize in trying to help them figure out their ways of functioning better, and so I have a student that I’m thinking of right now who has improved so much because he is working with someone who helps him to figure out what he needs to do and holds him accountable for it.

Sucheta: Got it. Recently, I read an article and it kind of talked about falling skills that are really – and they contribute to college success, and so successful students, the article says, that come prepared for classes, attend every class and pay close attention, consider instructors as experts, follow and organize study routine, develop study skills strategies, and finally, take responsibility for their own success, so these skills when student possesses and arrives on college campus, they are more likely to succeed but what I know about executive dysfunction or inability to exercise your executive functions is, all of these areas seem to be of trouble for those who haven’t mastered their executive process, so can you comment a little bit about relationship of these skills to high school exit and where do they miss the beat? So for example, come prepared for classes. I know a lot of high school teachers complain or are dissatisfied with students’ preparedness, but in what ways they are experiencing that can seem to affect because they believe that these skills should be mastered by middle school, right? And by high school, you should be using those skills, not learning them, but I see a disconnect. Do you see that disconnect as well?

Nancy: I do. Again, as you indicated, they’ve been scheduled so much that it’s hard for them to understand what they need to do to take responsibility, so I definitely see a disconnect. That’s a real problem.

Sucheta: So the last comment, if you can make, the biggest challenge is take responsibility for their own success. It’s such a complex and abstract idea, right? So when we talk to our students, I know as a parent, I have used these terms like ‘take responsibility for your actions.’ My experience as an expert in executive function, I find that is not a translatable process to those particularly who lack the understanding. How do you see that is understood by students who struggle?

Nancy: Well, I think sometimes, they just don’t know what to do next. They haven’t been used to being in charge of their own learning, their own actions, and so they have difficulty with it, frankly. So for instance, getting up and going to class on time. If I stayed up too late the night before, am I going to get up and go to class? Maybe I’ll just sleep in. Am I going to have that work ready for that class? Maybe I just won’t get that work ready for that class. Oh, I did the work but I left it in my room, or I did the work but I didn’t turn it in, so there are lots of little things that when you acted them up can create serious problems for the students.

Sucheta: Well, Nancy, it’s been such a joy talking with you, and I am so hopeful with experts like you who have deep understanding of your students’ needs and great compassion for them, creates an environment for them to at least be understood because part of their journey as I see it is to be in an environment where they’re not judged as failures because a lot of these are mishaps that are ongoing and that can be quite stressful for the observer as much as for the student himself. Before I let you go, should anyone have any questions or want to learn more about your work, where should they go?

Nancy: Well, they certainly can email me at nancybeane@westminster.net, and that’s nancybeane@westminster.net.

Sucheta: Beautiful. Thank you so much, Nancy, for making the time to join me on this podcast.

Nancy: Thank you.

Todd: Alright and we’re back. Sucheta, what a great conversation you had with Nancy Beane there. She talked a lot about the differences between high school and college.

Sucheta: Yes, Todd. Transition from college and the success thereafter truly depends not just on smarts but readiness. I feel that Nancy’s talk kind of highlighted these four distinct ideas. The first one was have the desire to want to go to college. College is for people to pursue their passion. Those with emotional connection to that future or the next step of life can really do well and they can push themselves to pursue these higher goals. The second point that I thought she made really well is have the determination to persist up things. At college, of course you need to work longer hours, you need to work under pressure, you need to get things done even when they are not fully – and they are not making sense to you. The third point she made was strong habits and good study skills are essential, and that the fundamental piece of that is attending classes then comes taking notes, reading assigned work, reviewing new material, abstracting important and complex ideas, preparing for tests, and then eventually, writing good papers. The fourth idea that was stuck to me was be ready to adapt. Adapt is to shift and to adjust. Be willing to do the academic work while you are having fun, be able to take on a college activity and yet attend classes. Take advantage of a late start to class but still show up, so those are the kinds of things that I think Nancy really brought home.

Todd. Yes, those are very critical points. Thinking about what you guys were talking about and I certainly reflected upon this with my high school career. I mean, when you were in high school, students are kept very busy by their parents and their teachers are very engaged making these kids focus but it all changes when they go to college, right? That was another key thing I was thinking about through that conversation.

Sucheta: Truly, so that brings us to kind of reviewing some of the takeaways from Nancy’s talk, so here’s the first takeaway: what people really, really need to focus is, start weaning these high school students off of the programmed life. Nancy was big on that. I agree with Nancy that parents need to help free up their time by taking some of the commitments off their plates and then let them learn to manage their goals and time more, and maybe parents can help during junior and senior year. Nancy clearly said, give the high school students opportunities to learn a few truths about real life, that means give them a responsibility to manage money by giving them a budget, tell them to buy their own supplies, tell them to keep a little tally of their expenses over a month and review that with them. I also heard Nancy stress that we should give these students who are college-bound opportunities to do for others and grow and mature, and maybe hold a job or babysit, or take care of pets, or make meals for the family. At least I found that those things really help the students to be ready for the next step that is going to college.

Todd. Yes. Mm-hmm, mm-hmm, no doubt about that. Nancy also talked about this idea that there’s this disconnect between preparedness at the time of the exit from high school versus say the preparedness during the college years. Any thoughts there, Sucheta?

Sucheta: Yes, that was the second takeaway which was bridge this gap, bridge this disconnect between exit skills and entry skills, so Nancy said many students who have struggled with organization, planning, timeliness throughout their high school career yet managed to finish very successfully, sometimes, even with great distinction, and now, they stand at the entry point of college and only to realize that they have learned nothing about their own challenges and how those challenges will interfere with college, and that can be a problem. As they look ahead towards college, these students just don’t know what to do next or how to do it differently, and every effort needs to be made towards fixing this disconnect, and guess who does that fixing? I guess the adults around these college-bound students and then you bring the college student along on this path with you.

Todd. Yes. Well, Nancy also talks about how students get away with not turning their schoolwork in on time, not doing it on time, and they never really seem to learn the importance of time and seems like too many educators allow that. How does this impact college readiness?

Sucheta: That’s the third takeaway I saw her emphasize which is reevaluate the good faith forgiveness of that high school teachers and counselors have in place. I believe we need to seriously assess and see, is letting students turn something late and eventually promotes development of the true skill of remembering to remember? Is that doing that? Nancy talked about high school teachers and counselors making several allowances for their students who struggle to show up with their work or their material, or meet the deadlines. They even allow them to take advantage of that support by being the support for them without those students seeking that support, and all that is a part of that excessive allowability and I think she wants dedicators and parents to kind of keep that under wrap or kind of started watching that as students inch towards high school.

Todd. Well, Nancy was also concerned about how many students, they’re just not fully vested in even going to college. I mean, how big a deal is that?

Sucheta: Yes, that’s kind of interesting, right? At this day and age particularly, from middle-class and upper middle-class families have come to assume that your child will go to college and there are barriers at both ends of the spectrum, whether it’s a low income family who do not have access to college versus more middle-class and higher class families may want their kids to go to college but the student may just simply not have any desire for it. So she highly recommended that leave the option of not going to college right away on the table and consider a gap year. What my personal experience is, these students who are exhausted with busy schedules and busy lives, experience a burnout and sometimes, their cognitive maturity is not there which makes them take good decisions, even if they worked to be college-bound, and this gap year can become this wonderful opportunity to grow and mature. This time that they get to be by themselves, they get to learn a few truths about their real world, so she definitely emphasized that it’s a smart move for students to really consider a gap year and sometimes, it may not even be a student’s idea, so parents kind of need to encourage that and sow the seeds maybe beginning of senior year or end of junior year.

Todd. Yes, well, when I was listening to you two talk about that, I was thinking about my college career and I wish I had done that. I think I would have been a much, much more serious and better student had I taken advantage of this idea of a gap year is a really interesting idea. Alright, so great conversation with Nancy Beane. In closing, walk us through, so using your executive function lens, Sucheta, how do you think this discussion with Nancy ties in with the overall framework of understanding executive functions?

Sucheta: Well, every parent, teacher, and expert talks about, are college-bound students need to be relieved for the real world? The real question is, what does that mean? How does surviving in the real world work? Well, to survive in the real world, you need life skills. You need soft skills, any capacity to make good choices, and you need the ability to adapt or adjust to new situations. In essence, these are the fundamental cognitive abilities called executive functions. Just to kind of connect to the statistics, as of 2012 and 13, there were almost 7,253 two-year colleges and four-year colleges. Americans with Disability Act requires every university in college to have a disability support for students. However, many universities are supporting students whose disability ranges from vision impairment, hearing impairment, physical impairment, mental impairment, and students struggling with emotional challenges of just being in this environment of a high level of stress and anxiety, and they might be suffering with depression or suicidal ideation, so the disabilities department is tackling a very wide range of challenges that create a roadblock in successfully navigating that real-world experience. The developing prefrontal cortex and related skills that I’m describing which are the executive functions do manifest as academic difficulty, emotional adjustment difficulty, or difficulty in keeping up with anxiety provoking social situations, so I see executive functions as an overarching umbrella that covers a healthy adjustment in a new environment for a college-bound student. So struggles of unprepared students may be viewed as underdeveloped ability rather than a diagnosable disability. Those students may just fall off the bandwagon and not get the right kind of attention, so very few colleges and universities actually serve the needs of students with executive function challenges. So in conclusion, I feel that we need to really take a close look at what makes college experience difficult for those who have a genuine executive function problem, but they may have added difficulties which mismanagement creates, and both can really, really facilitate success or lead to a disastrous path, so I hope our listeners can fully think about the connection between high school transition, a college entry, and sustenance of a student’s success throughout college years.

Todd. Alright, well, that’s it for today. On behalf of our host, Sucheta Kamath and all of us at Cerebral Matters, thanks for listening today. We look forward to seeing you next week on Full PreFrontal.

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Sucheta Kamath
Executive Function Specialist at Cerebral Matters
Sucheta Kamath, founder of private practice (Cerebral Matters), is an expert in brain training & Executive Function development. She is a TEDx speaker and a recent graduate of the Leadership Atlanta class of 2015. Sucheta will be launching ExQ, an educational software company that offers accessible, web-based learning management tools for all in Fall of 2017.

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