Are You Prepared for College?
- Student Tips
In April, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP - commonly known s the Nation's Report Card) revealed that only a quarter of American 12th-graders had proficient math skills and just under 40% demonstrated college-level preparedness in reading. These dire statistics mean that many high schoolers could be heading to university without essential academic skills. The take-away? Before heading off to campus this fall, brush up on your multiplication tables and grammar lessons. But, more importantly, success in college doesn't rely solely on the ability to read and compute, and students matriculating this autumn should make sure they're prepared for all of the rigors of university studies. Here's how you can make sure that you're ready for college and have the right tools for success!
1. Read, read, read!
If you're like most high school seniors, you've probably been given a copy of Dr. Suess' Oh, the Places You'll Go. But in another of the beloved author's books, Suess declared that “the more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” Indeed, tests like the NAEP try to quantify academic skills like reading, but the reality is that students who read, succeed. And not just in literary subjects. Reading comprehension is an essential skill for all majors and one that many college instructors report incoming freshmen lack. Reading can make you a better writer, which will be important for literature and biology majors alike. And reading can also help students build expertise and passion for subjects, which in turn make them better students. But reading at the college level isn't just about comprehending the words on the page – college students are also expected to understand context and subtext, and have the ability to discuss and analyze the subject matter. Practice your college-ready reading skills over the summer by reading widely in a range of genres and subjects. Visit your local library, join a book club, or look online for recommendations. Goodreads has a variety of collections, or you could try this list of must-reads for college students.
2. Try teamwork
There was a time when college courses were more focused on individual achievements, but in the modern university, teamwork is key. Whether it's contributing to a class discussion, participating in a group project, or organizing a collaborative study session, college students will find that one of the most challenging aspects of their university studies is working with other students. College courses often stress teamwork because it's a valuable and, increasingly, necessary skill in the professional world. Prepare for collegiate collaboration by joining the marching band, participating in the debate team, or playing doubles tennis during your extracurricular activities. Or look for group service opportunities like Habitat for Humanity or Relay for Life that require cooperation and communication.
3. Build concentration
We live, and learn, in a world full of instant gratification and constantly updating information. But college courses require students to focus on and absorb in-depth material. Many in-coming college students find it difficult to concentrate on coursework or assignments because college work is often more independent and extended that what they experienced in high school. And concentration skills are often coupled with time-management. Start practicing both now because you won't have time to experiment and find the best system once you're on campus. Develop a good system for keeping track of assignments, identify how much time you need to accomplish specific tasks, and learn what helps, and hinders, your concentration. Don't be afraid to ask for help or clarification, and never hesitate to reread a passage, proofread a paragraph, or rework a problem.
4. Learn note-taking
One way to build good concentration skills is to learn good note-taking practices. Not only will this help you to record information presented in classes and lectures, but it can help you retain information and will keep you focused on both your lecturer and your assignments. Everyone has a different note-taking style, but here are some basic pointers to get you started:
- Don't attempt to record a lecture verbatim – learn to pick up on key terms, main ideas, examples, and definitions that will help you to understand and remember the material.
- Resist the urge to use a computer or tablet – studies have shown that writing notes long-hand is more conducive to concentration, retention, and learning.
- However, do invest in assistive technology that suits your learning style. Apps like Evernote, hardware like Livescribe, and software like Dragon can help keep you organized and on-task.
5. Gain life skills
Of course, most students head to college in order to earn a degree. But a big part of the college experience is learning to become an independent adult. Unfortunately, even the most academically prepared student might arrive on campus without vital life skills. Cooking, hygiene and health, basic money management, and social skills can all contribute to the success or failure of a college experience. Ask your parents, a trusted teacher, or another adult you admire to give you some pointers on 'adulting.' Start with these fail-safe tips:
- Learn how to cook and (safely!) store food. A diet of ramen or a bout of food poisoning from out-of-date yogurt will not help your studies.
- Pay attention to your health and well-being. Get to enough sleep, know signs of common illnesses and when to visit a doctor. Get acquainted with the physical and mental health facilities on campus.
- Keep track of your finances and learn to budget. Don't blow your student loan on pizza and video games. You'll regret it later.
- Be polite and learn how to present yourself. During your studies, you'll need to live with roommates, communicate with professors, and deal with administrative faculty on a regular basis. Common courtesy goes a long way.