Do you feel that high school students are prepared for college?This is for my research paper in my Graduate program in counseling. From my experience and research, it seems that we are not...

Do you feel that high school students are prepared for college?

This is for my research paper in my Graduate program in counseling. From my experience and research, it seems that we are not preparing students for college, thus the drop out rate. Please let me know your feelings and thoughts, and what could the schools do to better prepare the student. Or if you feel the students are prepared, how is this accomplished?

Asked on by debi20

26 Answers

MaudlinStreet's profile pic

MaudlinStreet | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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In my experience, I've found that many students suffer in college because they have no sense of personal responsibility. We all have those students....the ones whose parents call or email because the grades are slipping...but refuse to accept that the student needs to complete assignments for that to happen. These are the students who can't cut it in college, because Mommy can't call the professor and plead a sob story. They suddenly find that copying information off the internet isn't going to earn them a passing grade, and they panic.

However, I've also found that the students who devote their time to studying and critically thinking about assignments are well-prepared for college level work.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I agree with other editors in thinking that High School really unfortunately does not prepare students effectively for college. The best preparation really in AP classes that do provide effective courses at college intake level, thus introducing students to the kind of quality of work they will have to produce in college.

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dastice | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

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I breezed through high school and was in for an unpleasant surprise when I got to college and discovered I could not breeze through classes there as well.  The main thing I was lacking was a solid set of study skills.  I had never needed to study in high school (which, in itself, is a bad sign) and had no clue where to begin.  I think these skills should be taught as a required class in high school, or even middle school.


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sensei918 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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Students' preparedness for college is dependent on so many factors, but in my experience teaching beginning college composition courses, students as a group seem terribly unprepared, both academically and in terms of being able to handle the responsibilities that come with college in general.  One issue in particular that is disturbing to me is the general lack of critical thinking ability.  One of the places where I am currently teaching recently evaluated the work of 150 Writing 2 students and discovered that only 3% of the students evaluated had even the most basic critical thinking skills. Many also lacked basic technical skills such as adequate grammar, punctuation, and proficiency with sentence structure. Few could understand thesis formation, fewer could do documentation and citation correctly.

There are so many possible reasons for this poor showing, but surely the high schools must be at least partly responsible for graduating students who cannot even make a sentence. I feel that the only solution is remediation, and many schools are resorting to that.

And I do think it unfair to blame the teacher and tie tenure to student achievement.  A teacher, especially in a public school system, can only do so much and should not be the scapegoat when he/she is not the sole responsibility of learning outcomes.

ktmagalia's profile pic

ktmagalia | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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Public high school?  My general answer is no.

I do, however, think the best preparation for college in current high schools are AP classes.

In my opinion, the best measure of how well a high school prepares its students for college is by the number of AP classes offered, number of students who take these classes, and the overall success of students on the exams.

I must agree with you. "The BEST preparation for college in current high schools are AP classes" without doubt.  More rigor and relevancy are contained in AP classes, and the expectations are set high. These students, at least those who push themselves, will meet these standards and exceed them given the opportunity.  Recently, our English department opened the gates. Our rigid "pre-requisite" policy was pushed aside to meet the AP mission statement. I had ill-prepared students, those who struggled with reading and writing at the start, who made unbelievable progress in the AP setting.  Did they pass the test? Maybe not, but they will be leaps and bounds more prepared for college than those sitting in desks listening to Adventures of Huckleberry Finn read aloud.

angelcann's profile pic

angelcann | College Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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I have to agree that school is what the students make of it, but I also think that -- in my area, at least -- the high schools are allowing them to develop some very bad habits that inhibit their performance in college to some degree. In my county, the high schools do not allow the students to take their books home and teachers are encouraged to NOT give homework. When these students enroll in college, they expect to do all of their work in class, and not have assignments to perform out of class. They also don't seem to understand the concept of due dates. I had a student in the fall semester who had mono, missing seven weeks of the semester. Instead of dropping the class like I suggested, she showed up on final exam day with the three papers she had missed, expecting me to accept them and to let her take the final exam, "because that's what they let me do in high school."

I have to say that my freshmen who were home-schooled are the most prepared -- academically, at least.

ako6777's profile pic

ako6777 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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I think school is what you make of it.  If you have ambition and goals in your life you are more likely to take school seriously and succeed.  On the other hand, if your parents don't expect much from you and you have limited goals, you may not take school as seriously as others.  With this type of background you may not be as prepared for college as someone else.  Many high schools provide college preparation courses for students.  This would assist students in being more prepared for college, but the student has to work hard and out forth more than average effort.

I also feel that many students are given up on by teachers.  I work in special education and many students with disabilities are not pressed to work as hard as they could.  Many teachers feel that because the students are disabled they shouldn't have to work with them.  I have seen this impact the performance and drive of many students. 

clairewait's profile pic

clairewait | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Public high school?  My general answer is no.

I do, however, think the best preparation for college in current high schools are AP classes.

In my opinion, the best measure of how well a high school prepares its students for college is by the number of AP classes offered, number of students who take these classes, and the overall success of students on the exams.

lynnebh's profile pic

lynnebh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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I will add one more comment to the many good answers. There is a great deal of actual research in this field. I so some work for our state's School Board Association and in my state, over 1/3 of the students that graduate from our public high schools must have remediation at the secondary level. If you have not already done so, do some research into this field because for the past few years, several states have been on the cutting edge in trying to solve the remediation rate. One of the solutions is referred to by various names, but in our state, we call it P-20. This means that we are attempting to align curriculum from preschool to college. Our research has found that if there is such alignment, there are few gaps in a student's education as he/she goes from preschool, to elementary school, to middle school, to high school and to college.

There are many national groups that have done tons of research into this question as well. Another huge factor in the puzzle is the teacher. Research shows that more than any other single factor, a quality teacher has the most positive results on a student's success. Check out information from The Alliance for Quality Teaching and other similar groups. Our state has just passed a law that ties student achievement to teacher tenure. I know that other states have this as well. These efforts are all geared to preparing students better for post-secondary education.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that there are other factors which are at play in terms of addressing drop out rates.  In an economic setting where so many are being challenged with material reality, some kids feel the need to have to go and work as opposed to continuing to pursue higher studies.  At the same time, with the escalating cost of college, some do choose to work because they are cognizant of the fact that college is not in their future from an economic standpoint.

I do believe that there are high school preparatory programmes that allow students to be competitive for college.  One of the challenges I see in our local high school is that students who elect to take "Honors" level classes, advanced courses, are prepared very well.  Yet, the same cannot be said for those who take the "regular" level or the "foundational" level courses.  I think that the same level of academic rigor might have to be modified in these settings, but it can be applied to ensure that all students are prepared to go to college.  I think that being able to examine the course-load given to students and the definition of "academic rigor" being maintained in all settings would be vitally important for ensuring that all students are equally capable of competing for college.

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dano7744 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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It has been my unfortunate experience that very few students are prepared for the rigors of college work. Many students continually ask about "extra credit" opportunities. They ask about this, of course, after they bomb a test or several tests. Further, they frequently ask the age old question "is this going to be on the test" or what do we need to study. I tell them they need to study the TEXTBOOK. It seems that a vast majority do not want to read anything, much less the text. I also get the impression that they want to be "spoon fed" the information. I estimate that of all my pupils, about 3 percent are college material ! This fact is truly depressing.

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besure77 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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I currently see many school districts lowering their standards. I do not think this is a good idea because when children get to college they are used to the lower standards. They get to college and they are unprepared for the demands placed on them.

I too have had parents complain that teachers send home too much homework and make too many demands on students. In turn, children often have the same ideologies that their parents have. Children need to be challenged and honestly, school shouldn't be easy. It should be challenging and demanding. This is helping them to prepare for life.

brettd's profile pic

brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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In public education, this is a bell curve result.  Some students are overprepared, even.  Many students are underprepared.  My wife teaches community college, and even has some of the same students that graduate from my high school.  A lot of them need remedial courses in Math and English to bring their skills up to par for college.  That being said, students that are accepted into four year colleges take far fewer remedial courses.

Every school and every teacher, as well as every student, have specific strengths and weaknesses.  Sometimes a student may be ready in English because they had great instructors, a natural aptitude for the subject, or they worked hard.  Other times it may be Math that they or the school excel in.

So the answer is yes and no, depending greatly on the individual school, teacher and student you're talking about.

missy575's profile pic

missy575 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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I am a high school teacher. After 13 years in the field and 2 different locations, I would have to say the answer to your question is dependent on several factors.

First of all, educators are sold on the need for education past high school. They all have college degrees. Thus, when this notion by educators is supported by their school's parent body, district, and state to push students to achieve, I have seen prepared students going to college. My definition of preparation would mean that these students have appropriate study habits, a broad and deep knowledge base, the ability to learn on their own, and the assumption of responsibility for their own actions. I watched this occur in an Orange County California public high school which had a supportive parent base and numbers in the 90th percent range for attending a college directly out of high school. If the question of work being too challenging ever came up between a teacher and a parent, the school district likely backed the teacher because teachers document their use of standards, best practice, and differentiating instruction.

In middle America, my experience has been much different. Given this current generation of students, I have found parents demanding that even the public schools are expecting too much from their children in terms of curriculum. Being the age of many of these parents, I am wondering if these children of the 70s and 80s found their high school educations unnecessary and often off-topic. I wonder if these parents haven't begun to perpetuate the idea of unnecessary in their children, because this is what I often hear directly from students. As we watch these students graduate our high school, we are getting reports from college professors who are reporting that for the first time, they are beginning to have parents be involved in the relationship between the professor and the student. Thus, I find an excusatory parent body who does not require students to be accountable, but rather helps them demand certain rights to be one way our students are receiving less preparation. Districts are bowing to the wants and desires of the parents, which they should when it is the right thing to do for students. But under the circumstances that it lessens the authority of a teacher and lessens curricular challenge, this serves our students much less.

Consider moving this to a discussion board.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Clearly, this depends on where the students are coming from.  I have taught at a rural high school in Washington and I have taught at a community college that gets many of the students from high schools like the one where I taught.

For my students, it seemed that the major problem that made them unready for college was an inability to read and write at the needed level.  The students were unable to read complex texts (I mean 12th grade and early college level) and to understand them without a great deal of help.  I think that they do not read enough to have a good grasp on how to comprehend this level of writing.

In addition, because they do not read enough, they do not have a great grip on how to write clear sentences in organized paragraphs.

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