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I was hoping you could help me brainstorm some ideas about why some people are more successful than others in college. I need to write an essay about it and am racking my brain for some good ideas! I figure some people have more motivation to complete college, such as a degree and a good job, while others do it because it's expected of them...

You've given two excellent motivations to start from. Essentially, you'll be writing a comparison/contrast essay -- or possibly a cause and effect essay -- or a combination of both. I'll include specific links for these rhetorical types below.

Here are some ideas you can ponder:

~Has the student developed decent study habits during high school that carry on well into college? Or did the student "skate" through high school and struggle to develop study habits once he/she reached college and the demands of those classes?

~Is the student motivated by a longing or calling for a particular career, and is that calling strong enough to steer him/her through all the seemingly unrelated steps between freshman year and degree(s) competion?

~Is the student, as you say, on a degree path because "it's expected"? That can be a family tradition (e.g., all males in the family have gone to Stanford) or simply a family expectation that every child in the family will earn a college degree.

~Even if the student doesn't have a really good academic background and/or good study habits, does eventual success depend more on persistence than on intelligence? (I've known many young people who left high school with marginally adequate academic skills, but who succeeded in earning college/university degrees simply because they were determined to do so. Many had been ESL students, even as late as sophomore year in high school. I've also known high school valedictorians who returned home after less than half a year through their college freshman year. And all kinds of situations in between...)

Let us know what you come up with.


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