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Why Top High School Students Struggle in College
This past week I told a 12th grade 4.0 student that we would soon be applying our reading skills to her Advanced Placement book. Her response was the typical. “We don’t use that book in class and I already have a 4.0.” So, I retorted, “Let me get this straight. Your teacher is providing you notes from your AP book. She is going to teach you how to pass the AP test without reading the book. She will also provide you with sample AP tests to prepare you before the exam. And you won’t have to open the book. Right?” The heavy nod confirmed what I already knew.
But she understood the reason why we were working together: her parents were concerned that she was not prepared for next year’s college rigor. That was because she was not reading at college level. She, like many students whom I coach are 4.0 students who read way below their current grade level.
Although strong reading skills help to build foundational understanding and also makes both learning and studying easy, it is difficult to convince a high school senior who does not see value in reading textbooks in addition to their assigned schoolwork.
So, I had to use my old broken-record technique—my lecture that blurts and spews out of me— when I see students cheating themselves out of long-term learning opportunities. I stated that she may pass the AP exam and may get college credit, but she was currently incapable of comprehending a college textbook. And cheating herself out of an opportunity to grow is a travesty for the field education.
Students do not realize that top high school grades resulting from memorization and doing the assigned work is not the right kind of work for college preparation.
Why College Students Come Unprepared
Every year, I have a caseload of college students, including graduate and medical school students who were top high school students. They are all hard workers that eked their way into their choice college or graduate program. Their hard work ethic paid off to get them there, but being a top college student was a huge challenge that was slipping away.
Most students who don’t read much already know that they don’t read well; but for some reason, many wrongly assume that college will mirror their high school experiences. Struggling readers may find themselves riddled with anxiety, depression, and deflated self-esteem. They study day and night just to keep up. And many struggling college students replace their anticipated, exciting college social life with their heads buried in books. And they remain frustrated.
How Should a High School Student Prepare for College?
If a high school student can’t pick up their textbook and comprehend it with ease, your red flag is waving. Direct the student to a specialist that can help with reading preparation for college.
Also, bear in mind that high school students who were awarded time accommodations during testing will not be awarded time-and-a-half or double time in college to read and learn from required textbooks.
College students should be able to read anything, regardless of content or complexity. If your student is not yet there and heading to college, see a specialist who focuses on both reading comprehension with cognitive textual-processing training. Strong cognitive textual-processing skills is crucial for advanced critical reading. Cognitive textual-processing skills involves translating textual information for high-level learning and reasoning, which is paramount for college success.