College readiness is a topic that has been on many policy-makers lips. Being that less than 60 percent of students graduate with a degree after 6 years at a 4 year university (3 years at a 2 year university), revamped college ready initiatives suggest that students and parents should do three things in the process of preparing for college: 1. communicate widely shared learning goals and educational expectations; 2. relate the test scores to the types of skills needed for success in high school and beyond; and 3. understand the increasing complexity of skills across the score ranges in English, mathematics, reading, and science. However, before students begin their classes at the high school level, there are steps they can take to ensure they have a valuable experience.
Choose the right classes
The courses that a student takes in high school should be three things: challenging, varied, and required for graduation. Parents and students should sit together and devote time to researching the class expectations and objectives over the year. Many students will find that their highest level math course in middle school is nearly identical to the math class that they are automatically assigned. Parents can champion for their child’s needs by speaking with administrators to have them placed into the proper class.
Visit the new building
Successful students are those most confident in their surroundings. To build confidence, parents can orchestrate a tour of their child’s new school. During this time, parents should inquire about the amount of time alloted during passing periods, ask if the school building is zoned based on content (many usually are), and then ask for a mock experience. This will give the student an idea of what to expect when moving into the new school building. Additionally, parents should inquire about a Mentoring Program between Lower- and Upperclassmen. These connections will continue to build familiarity while also introducing students to varied peer groups. However, parents should err on the side of caution and remain involved in the activities that their young High School student participates in with said Mentor.
Set up a schedule
Student success will come along with structure. Parents should sit down with their student and discuss expectations (academic before extracurricular) and establish a “Reward and Recovery System.” By outlining objectives (the student will be expected to learn all of the class objectives thoroughly), expectations (the student will receive a grade of no less than a B in their Algebra I class), rewards (the student will be allowed to participate in an extracurricular activity if grades remain satisfactory), and recovery prior to entering high school, the student will have a clear picture of what’s expected for them to succeed. Additionally, this schedule should have time allotted for studying and reviewing their necessary work. Remember: do NOT over-schedule your child, as they are still growing beings and need the appropriate amount of rest.
Know your student’s studying and learning styles
One often overlooked skill relates to awareness of the student. Many harp on the academic preparation factor (which is very important) but don’t connect this to individual studying style and learning style. For a quick learning style assessment, visit What’s Your Learning Style? By filling out a simple form, your student will have an idea of whether they are visual, auditory, or tactile/kinesthetic learners. This information can be used to inform the teacher of what you’re child will need to be successful. For an assessment of study skills, visit Study Skills Assessment-CBC or a Brief Study Skills Assessment. Pay attention to areas of strengths and find tools to improve areas of weakness.
Additionally, there are outside programs that encourage college preparation in the New Orleans area and include:
Urban League College Track Program – New Orleans – an after-school college preparatory program that helps students from under-resourced communities graduate from high school and succeed in college. College Track’s services are centered on four core areas: Academic Affairs, Student Life, College Affairs, and College Success. College Track works with students for eight years from high school through college.
Local colleges and universities also offer transition programs and can be contacted for more information.
For more tools on preparing for college, visit the following links:
Plan, Apply, Acceptance Tool (Federal Department of Education)
College Readiness Standards (ACT)
A Federal Agenda for Education
*Previous articles in this series focused on preparing young students for grade school and adolescent students for middle school.