Prepared for College?

Think back to your first month of college, regardless of whether it was this year or 30 years ago. Were you prepared? Did you feel competent among your classmates and friends?

Patrick Higgins made a comment that struck me as a perfect way to assess whether schools are adequately preparing students for the rigors of college – he mentioned the survey he’s giving to all of the students from his school who just completed their first year of college. This seems to me the perfect way to determine if the students from your school are actually READY for that wild world of academia – if I had a school, I’d be jumping all over this!

Back to that question – was I prepared for college? Academically, definitely. Overall? Nope.

Tim Walker egged me on and egged me on to write this post, and I first balked because when I write about something I’m really passionate about I sometimes have a hard time conveying my true feelings – the rationale is all THERE in my head and has been for so long that it’s hard to get it out. Here’s my stab at it, one of a multi-part attempt to get my head around the issue –

My friends and I weren’t prepared for college for one simple reason – we were lacking time management skills. Sure, some of us had “Life Skills” classes in high school, but it didn’t prepare us for the complete and utter openness of the college experience. We went from being scheduled every single minute in high school to having a college class schedule, but WAY too much “open” time.

Who’s fault was it?

The high school I attended was on the quarter block system, which meant that teachers used the 90 minute periods to teach a long-ish lesson and then we worked on our homework in class with peers. Helllllllloooooooo reality the minute we hit our first university course! There was no time to work on homework in class and there was also no parent scheduling our afterschool time or weekends. How about those gaps of time on Tuesday mornings from 9-12:30 when I didn’t have class? I was NOT prepared for that! The last time I wasn’t working or going to school on a Tuesday morning must have been the summer after 8th grade!

I also wasn’t prepared for the ability to just not go to class – sure, some professors penalized us for not attending, but back in high school we were given the threat of being arrested if we skipped too much school – they scared us into attending! Also, our parents were held accountable for our actions – they were notified if we didn’t attend class and expected to take action.

Fast forward 3 months and it was ALL on us.

As Patrick mentioned polling students about academic skills they felt they needed for success in college, I immediately thought – but what about LIFE skills? Are we preparing our students (and own children) for life after us? Are we preparing them to make the choice about going to class and to assess how much free time is too much free time?

As we schedule our children in activity upon activity from the moment they are born, are we doing more harm than good?

My intention is to avoid this with my own children – I want to minimize the number of activities they’re in and help them learn to manage their OWN time. What to do with a free weekend? Homework or play? I want the consequences on THEM, not me. The only way to learn from mistakes is to be held accountable for them. I learned this the hard way in my college health and phy ed class where I earned one of my 2 C’s – it was the easiest course EVER, but I didn’t go to lectures because they seemed pointless and I could get the material from the textbook. Huh, turns out they took attendance.

I suffered from my own bad decisions – I think we as a society need to start letting our students and children learn just a few things the hard way.

Stop scheduling, stop cushioning the blows.

And now I head out the door for a 3-day trip to my hometown where I’ll see some high school friends – I look forward to discussing their experiences from that time period now that we’ve had a *few* years to process it all……….

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