Is Your Student Rising to the Challenge of Preparing for College? What’s the Problem?

In December 2014 Achieve, Inc. released the report Rising to the Challenge: Are High School Graduates Prepared for College and Work?  We think the information in this report is important not just for schools, but for parents as well.  In this post we share some of the results of this survey.  In our next post, we’ll share some of the implications for parents and students.

Preparing to succeed in college seems to begin earlier and earlier.  Laying the solid foundation of academic skills, softer life skills, and getting ready for the admissions process takes years.  Some of the work is conscious for your student, and some may happen unconsciously.  Some is under your student’s direct control, and some of the preparation depends on your student’s school, family, and mentors.  Can you help?  The answer is a resounding yes, but not necessarily in ways that you might think of at first.

A new study has just been released about students’ high school experiences and how they relate to college experiences.  It contains important information that parents can use to understand specifically how both students and parents can take more control of the college success preparation process.

What was the study and who conducted it?

In December 2014, the nonprofit organization Achieve released a new national study: Rising to the Challenge: Are High School Graduates Prepared for College and Work? This report covered the results of a survey conducted in early November 2014 by Hart Research Associates of 1,347 students who graduated from high school between 2011 and 2014.  Some of those graduates were in college, others had begun college but were taking a break, and others were working.

Achieve is a non-profit educational reform organization working with the states to raise academic standards and graduation requirements and to strengthen accountability.  It was formed in 1996 by a bipartisan group of governors and business leaders.  Since its founding, Achieve has continued to make college and career readiness a priority.

What did the study find?

Think about the implications of some of these findings:

  • Approximately 50% of the recent high school graduates surveyed report gaps in their preparation for life after college.
  • Only 25% said that they felt that their high school had set high academic expectations.
  • 49% of those in college felt they had large gaps in one or more subject areas.
  • The percentage increased to 83% when the question addressed at least some gaps in preparation.
  • 60% of students said they would have worked harder in high school if they knew then what they know now about expectations in college.
  • 72% said they would have taken higher level or more challenging courses if they knew then what they know now about college expectations.
  • 87% said they would have worked harder if the high school had demanded more, set higher standards, or emphasized why studying was necessary.
  • More than 25% said they wish their high school had prepared them with better study habits, communication skills and math skills.

This survey also presented several proposals to students and asked whether they agreed that these proposals might help.  Here are those results:

  • 90% agreed that students should have more opportunities for real world learning.
  • 87% agreed that communicating early in high school about courses needed for college and career would help.
  • 86% supported more opportunities for challenging courses in high school.
  • 83% said more tutoring availability would help.
  • 77% supported an assessment late in the high school years to find out what students still need to succeed in college.

Students themselves seem to recognize that current expectations in high school don’t prepare them for life after high school, and an important bottom line is their feeling that, ”Knowing then what I know now, I would have worked harder.”

So how can we help students learn in high school what they will need to know when they get to college?  Our next post addresses some important considerations for parents.

Related Posts:

College Parents Can Help Freshmen Understand the Differences Between High School and College

Is Your College Student Academically At Risk?

Using Senior Year to Prepare Your Student for College Success


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