By Amber King
Delaware Technical Community College
As a former high school guidance counselor, I am very familiar with the anxiety and pressure high school students feel about applying and preparing for college. I’ve heard many of my students express concerns about being prepared for college. Now that I am working on the other side as an academic counselor for incoming college students, I am seeing their concerns come to life.
Student after student comes in to take the placement test and leaves feeling defeated when they are told that they do not test into college-level courses. Other students do end up testing into those college level classes, but come back feeling ill-prepared or overwhelmed.
What can we do to help these students? We all want them to be successful in college, but how can we make that happen?
I truly believe a lot of the work lies in advising these students early on in this process, which will require a lot of work with the high school guidance counselors. To help more students test into these college level courses, I think every student should take the placement test at the end of their junior year of high school. At this point if the student is not “college level,” they could be offered developmental classes in their high school.
Our developmental instructors could help design these developmental classes that students would take during their senior year. I think many high school students would rather have these developmental classes in high school as opposed to waiting until they reach college.
Students always want to see a purpose in the class they are taking. They want to feel like they will use this material in their future. Offering these developmental courses in high school would serve a purpose, and students could make the connection about using this in the future, so I believe they would be more dedicated to the class.
If the high school junior tested into college level courses, they could take other math courses that their high school offered whether that be a higher level math course or an advanced placement option. In order to make this happen, I believe academic counselors need to make themselves more visible in the high schools and work a lot with the high school staff. It would also require our instructors to work with the high school teachers. I think everyone involved would be willing to do this to help our students feel more academically confident coming into college.
For the students who come into Delaware Tech “college ready” but later drop courses or do poorly in their courses because they are overwhelmed or unprepared, I think one way to help is continued advisement. Before students can register for any classes they participate in an initial advisement session, and then prior to registering for their second semester they first attend a program advisement session.
Two advisement sessions is a lot, but for high school students who are used to having their hands held through everything, this may not be enough. We have great opportunities for these students like the First Year Experience and New Student Orientation, but I think they still need more advisement. Students can always seek out additional advising time on their own, but we all know if students feel overwhelmed they are not that likely to seek us out.
I think holding continuous meetings with students throughout their first semester would benefit them. I also think we need to have more conversations with these students while they are still in high school about what they can expect from college. While a counselor could do this, it would be even more beneficial if we could have Delaware Tech students meet with these high school students and let them know what college is really like.
With the belief becoming more and more accepted that everyone needs a college education, I think we are going to see more and more students that are not prepared for college. Advisement may seem like too simple of an answer, but I think it is a step in the right direction. There would need to be a lot of collaboration and work put into these programs, but I do believe it would make students more successful, which is what we all want.