Ten Things You Can Do to Increase Your High School Student’s Academic College Readiness

Your high school student has his sights set on college. You and your student are focused on finding just the right school, getting accepted, and figuring out how to make it all financially possible.  But are you assuming that your student is prepared to succeed in college once he gets there?  Getting into college only opens the door.  How will your student do once he gets to college?

College readiness is a complex characteristic and is not easily defined.  Simplistically, it refers to being prepared to succeed in college.  More intricately, however, readiness includes not only academic mastery of key content and academic behaviors, but also key cognitive strategies and skills.  In this post, we’ll look at some important things that you and your student can do to increase his academic readiness for college level work.  In our next post, we’ll look at some of the “softer” skills that will help your student be prepared.

One of the mistakes that many students, and their parents, make is to assume that graduation from high school equates to being ready to do college level work.  Some sources have suggested that as many as one third of entering college students require remedial or developmental classes before undertaking college material.  The National Curriculum Survey conducted by ACT in 2009 asked both high school and college instructors the question, “How well prepared are high school students for college level work?”  Of those high school teachers responding, 91% estimated that high school students are well prepared, while only 26% of college instructors thought that high school students are well prepared.  Clearly a gap exists.

Helping your student get ready

 So if high school graduation alone may not prepare your student for success, what can you, as a parent, do to help increase your student’s readiness? Certainly, high schools need to do their part, but you can also help.  Consider some of the following suggestions:

  • Help your student understand that college level work will be different from high school work.  Your student will be required to study more independently, may be asked to think more deeply and move beyond facts, and will likely be expected to take more charge of his own academic career, work more independently and at a faster pace.  He can begin in high school to practice this upper level thinking and approach.
  • Help your student understand the importance of showing up every day.  As simple as it sounds, attendance is key.  He will not only gain more from his high school classes, but he will be practicing a habit that can make a big difference in college when attendance may be less monitored, but attendance matters in covering and understanding material.
  • Monitor your student’s progress.  Make sure that your student is meeting expectations and requirements all through his high school career.
  • Advocate for resources that your student may need – or better yet, help your student learn how to advocate for herself.  Make sure that she has what she needs to succeed.
  • Help your student form some realistic expectations about college level work, effort required, and her abilities.  Some students struggle in college with dashed dreams because their expectations are unrealistic.  There is a fine line for parents between encouraging students to “aim for the stars” and helping them to be honest about their abilities.
  • Understand the courses in the high school curriculum and what tests your student will need to take. Ask what each high school class will do for your student. Keep in mind not only tests such as the SAT or ACT for college admission, but also placement tests that may be required by colleges.  Help your student understand how his high school classwork may affect his future placement.
  • Encourage your student to become an active participant in his own learning. If he remains a passive receiver of information, he will be at a loss when he gets to college and must steer his own course.  Help your student understand the bigger picture and the connections between courses.  Like a large jigsaw puzzle with many pieces, help him see how all of the pieces of his education come together.
  • Encourage your student to find a mentor – someone other than her high school guidance counselor.  Her guidance counselor is an important source of information and help, but another teacher or other individual who can take a special interest in her progress and success will be invaluable.
  • Ask your student’s teachers for the learning outcomes in each class.  What will he be expected to be able to know or do at the end of the year?  How will the teacher, the student, and you know whether he has accomplished these goals?  How will he be evaluated?
  • Ask the high school for information about the benchmarks, objectives and outcomes of each year of high school.  Begin to think beyond each individual class and more about the developmental progress of your student through his high school career.  Where should he be each year?  What should he be accomplishing?  How do all of the pieces fit together?

Preparing your student for success in college is a shared responsibility.  It requires effort on the part of high schools, colleges, students and parents.  Asking your student’s high school to be clear about how they are preparing students is a good start.  Increased communication between colleges and high schools may be necessary.  Helping students take charge of their education, demand the best of themselves and their schools, may be one of the most effective ways of helping students get the most from their high school education.

In our next post, we will consider some of the less tangible non-academic qualities that will help your student prepare to succeed in college.  These “soft skills”, together with strong academic rigor will place your student in a position to make the most of his college career.

Related Posts:

Helping Your College Student Increase His Chances of Success

Are There Secrets to College Success?

Using Senior Year to Prepare Your Student for College Success

Soft Skills, Strong Success: Fifteen Skills for College Readiness


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