What Is College Prep?

Many schools claim to be college preparatory schools, but what does that title really mean? There are multiple definitions for college readiness and they all seem to work. For example, if a school follows a college-preparatory curriculum, does it automatically mean the students are ready to enter and do well in college courses? If a student attends a school that does not define itself as college prep, but the student gets high grades and does well on placement and admission tests, does that mean the student is prepared for college? Some schools such as the Landon School consider all facets of a students’ growth, including course work, character development and learning good values such as honesty and respect are what make a student ready for college.

Start Early

According to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, a nonprofit group that advocates policies to increase college level opportunities and achievement, the effort to ready a student for college is a kindergarten through twelfth grade endeavor. The discussion is also driven by statistics that show that almost three-fourths of students who enter college or other postsecondary education, do not finish.

Traditional Wisdom Questioned

In the past, it was thought that if a student passes a specific set of academic courses, they are ready to do college-level work. In some cases, this is true, and some states have modified their curriculum to reflect this for all students whether they are college-bound or not. However, research conducted by ACT Inc., the producer of one of the two major college admission examinations has found that while taking all of the recommended academic courses is beneficial, it does not necessarily ensure successfully completing a college degree. The results may show that the high school courses may not have the right level of rigor. It also shows that along with academic excellence, students need good mental practices when they leave high school and enter college, such as critical thinking and ethical living habits, which provide another example of the Landon experience.

The Value of Mentoring

When teachers connect with students on more levels than classroom teaching, the students have a better chance to develop a healthy mindset. Teachers are mentors and coaches when they help students learn beyond the classroom such as on playing fields, in art galleries and libraries and in performing arts centers and learn to understand and explore all aspects of life. Mentors have the opportunity to model the principles of teamwork, perseverance, practice and fair play.

Other Qualities

Along with academic success and good ethical standards, students also need to develop problem solving skills, analytical thinking, inquisitiveness and the willingness to accept critical feedback graciously. They should also know how to use feedback to improve themselves, but be ready to fail at times also. In the digital age, ways of thinking may be as important or more important than content knowledge according to the study Standards for Success conducted at the University of Oregon.

Students who cannot cope with college level work often take remedial courses for which they get no credit. According to research, these students are unlikely to graduate. It is no wonder that there are different opinions on what constitutes college preparedness. The views of kindergarten through twelfth grade teachers and college professors vary widely.

Author: Damien Riley

Having been a public school teacher since 1997, I've gained valuable classroom experience. Sometimes a great tool is a dynamite lesson plan. These posts are from a real teaching journey. I hope they inspire you. Thanks for reading!

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