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Getting Ready for College: Will Your High School Students Be Ready for It? |®

Getting Ready for College: Will Your High School Students Be Ready for It?

As an educator, you know there’s more to college prep than taking the ACT or SAT and shopping for must-have supplies and décor. Your students need to prep for managing college coursework and campus life — and you can be instrumental in helping them get ready for college.

Here’s how you can support your students in developing the core skills necessary to succeed:

Stronger Reading Skills

“Reading is the key that unlocks the door to learning,” says Patty Flowers, Science Department head at Vanguard College Preparatory School in Waco, TX. “Being a good reader will help make learning easier and more enjoyable.” That’s why students need to be even better at reading for content when they get to college. The texts are often harder and the assignments more rigorous. Stronger reading skills, including better analysis and stamina, are key to collegiate success.

Teachable Moment: Teach students to confirm their conclusions about the text they read by finding the passages that made them think it. Ask them to note where an a-ha moment occurred or an interesting connection was made, and challenge them to increase their reading rate so they can consume more text faster without losing comprehension.

Better Writing Skills

If Nancy Grass Hemmert could improve just one thing about students’ writing, it would be their content — the ideas and supporting details. What’s lacking? “Clear, well-supported thoughts and arguments,” says Hemmert, chair of the Communication and Media Studies Department at Santa Monica College in Santa Monica, CA.

Teachable Moment: Challenge students to write one sentence containing what they think (thoughts), why they think it (argument) and how they know (support). This creates a short answer or the foundation for a longer essay.

Deeper Thinking Skills

Critical thinking is critical. “It's about knowing how to approach a problem, evaluate potential solutions from a variety of perspectives and articulate a response,” says Leah Dunn, university librarian at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. “Just being aware of these simple steps — inquire, find, evaluate, articulate — and knowing that they can apply to most subject areas can sometimes be a major breakthrough.”

Teachable Moment: Encourage students to be inquisitive and ask questions. Teach them how to find and evaluate information, and emphasize the need to communicate their findings effectively orally and in writing.

Crucial Team Skills

“Although students have plenty of group activities throughout their K–12 experience, rarely are they taught how to do them well, leaving most hating group work and missing the advantages effective group work provides,” Hemmert says.

Teachable Moment: Add infrastructure to project-based learning and other group activities by establishing team roles and rules for participation. This helps students perform more effectively and learn accountability and compromise when getting ready for college.

More Efficient Study Skills

Many college freshmen struggle under the increased course load and their study technique suffers. “Too many students read textbooks word for word, highlighting just about everything, and then at the end of a page are unable to tell you what they just read,” says Hemmert. Worse, when they go back to study, there’s no way to know what was truly important, so they don’t know where to focus. “Learning how to properly read and outline textbooks alone would save students time and improve their understanding and retention.”

Teachable Moment: Talk to students about how they study and consider devoting a lesson or two every few weeks to teaching study skills. Ask students to take notes using techniques like self-explanation and interrogative elaboration.

Basic Financial Skills

“In college, a student is typically on his or her own and should know how to make a budget and abide by it,” says Flowers, who also teaches financial literacy. “The college student needs to have some idea of how much money is needed, how it can be earned and how it can be saved.”

Teachable Moment: Create authentic opportunities for students to manage money, like club activities or field trips. Your local banker may also have programs to help young people prepare for financial independence.

Essential Time Management Skills

“Time management is crucial to success in college,” says LaTosha Johnson, a teacher at the Nebraska College Preparatory Academy at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Without caring adults around to help them stay focused on schoolwork and deadlines, many students experience serious time crunches and can’t get out of them.

Teachable Moment: Assist students in selecting and using a calendar app on their mobile phone or tablet, or another system that meets their individual needs. Then teach them how to break assignments into tasks, estimate the time required for each, and record the incremental deadlines on their calendars.

Valuable Social Skills

No, we’re not talking about how to navigate their first mixer. “Students often do not understand the unspoken rules, etiquette and norms of being a ‘good’ college student,” Hemmert says. “Things like how to talk to an instructor, how to garner ‘free points’ by showing up on time, dressing for presentations, participating in class discussions and visiting faculty during office hours, among other important success skills.”

Teachable Moment: Reinforce participation and performance in your classroom. Help students develop these skills by holding “office hours” and coaching sessions for teacher-student interactions.

Use these teachable moments to help your high school students get ready for college and future success.

Margot Carmichael Lester is owner of The Word Factory in Carrboro, NC. The granddaughter of schoolteachers, she’s a frequent guest instructor, leading K–12 workshops on persuasive, opinion and argumentative writing. She’s a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Find her on Google+.

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