Academic journal article Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue

Chapter 9: Student Perceptions of Preparedness for College: A Case Study of Students in a First-Year Required Course

Academic journal article Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue

Chapter 9: Student Perceptions of Preparedness for College: A Case Study of Students in a First-Year Required Course

Article excerpt

The transition to college can be a struggle, and even high-achieving students can find themselves unprepared to succeed. I found this out the hard way when I went from straight A's in high school to at least one of each letter, including "W," in my first year of college. On paper, I was perfect college material. In practice, the social, financial, familial, and emotional challenges of my freshman year overwhelmed my ability to learn how to be a good college student at the same time. I was woefully unprepared. While researchers have studied at-risk populations and the transition to college, not much is understood about how academically advanced students perceive their levels of preparedness. This case study investigates student perceptions of preparedness through individual stories of students at an elite technical school.

LITERATURE REVIEW

How do we know whether a student is "college ready?" GPAs and challenging high school coursework can predict academic potential (Garton, Dyer, & King, 2000; Komarraju, Ramsey, & Rinella, 2013; Schmitt et al., 2009), but there are growing concerns that scores cannot reveal nonacademic factors in college success (Le, 2005; Maruyama, 2012; Porter & Polikoff, 2012; Zhao, 2006). Summer bridge programs and dual-enrollment courses seek to mitigate achievement gaps and variances in high school curricula between racial groups (Castro, 2013; Droogsma-Musoba, 2011; Lee, 2012; Walpole, 2003; Yamamura, Martinez, & Saenz, 2010) and socioeconomic statuses (Bailey & Dynarski, 2011; Barnes & Slate, 2013; Deming & Dynarski, 2011; Droogsma Musoba, 2011; Lareau, 2009; Perna & Thomas, 2007). In addition, freshman orientation courses and additional student services have been added at many college and universities to ease the transition for students, especially first generation college students (Byrd & Macdonald, 2005; Engle, 2007; Mehta, Newbold, & O'Rourke, 2011; Reid & Moore, 2008).

One problem with the college readiness research is that is that it "appears to exist in pockets of largely independent conversations under a number of labels" (Arnold, Lu, & Armstrong, 2012, p. 3). The many stakeholders and researchers are not communicating and collaborating much. High school teachers and college professors operate in relative isolation, and the standards for college readiness can be understood very differently. ACT (2013) reports that while 89% of high school teachers think their students are well prepared to succeed at college, only 26% of college professors think students are well prepared. Perna and Thomas (2008) argue that discrepancies in terminology, research focus, and communication among these parties leads to confusion, blame, and a lack of holistic solutions. Researchers often isolate subgroups of students for their studies, as seen above, or isolate particular attributes such as students' levels of engagement (Kuh, 2007), self-efficacy (Martin, 2010) or belonging on campus (Hoffman, Richmond, Morrow, & Salomone, 2002).

Another deficit in the current research is the assumption that "good" or "smart" students will have no trouble succeeding at college. Since GPA and ACT or SAT scores are often the primary metrics used by admissions offices, students with excellent scores are presumed to be ready to persist to attain a degree (National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], 2013). While it makes sense that students at the top of their high school classes will be most college ready, research shows that even "at highly selective institutions, one in ten entering students is academically unready for college" (NCES, 2012). This finding suggests that the test scores and grades used for admissions cannot reliably predict college performance because academic skill is just one part of college readiness (Arnold et al., 2012). No one seems to be addressing the preparation of high-achieving students in general, although Olson (2015) and McLoughlin (2012) worked with low-income high-achievers and Ford, Grantham, and Whiting (2008) focused on gifted black students. …

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