Are You Ready for College? When and How to Prepare!

by Dr. Humphries’ Doctorate, professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Are you ready for college?  When does the planning begin? Have you prepared academically and possess a strong skills foundation? Are you responsible? In other words, have you got what it takes to be on your own, make good decisions, and manage your time wisely?  These are important questions to ask BEFORE paying a lot of money to an institution of higher learning.

So much time and money are wasted each year by incoming freshmen who move out of their parents’ home into a dorm room to begin their college journey.  According to U.S. News and World Report, as many as 1 in 3 first-year students won't make it back for sophomore year. The reasons run the gamut from family problems and loneliness to academic struggles and a lack of money.  Another reason for students dropping out is lack of preparation.

When should college planning begin? I believe college planning should begin in elementary school when parents use the phrase, “WHEN you go to college….” instead of, “IF you go to college.”  Expectations are important.  Children should know early that you have high expectations for their future.  I believe the best time to have a frank discussion about college is when a child is in the 8th grade, just before he or she begins earning high school credits.  It’s important to point out that every class they are taking earns credits that count toward a high school diploma and colleges look at their credits and grades to determine if a student is worthy to be accepted.  If a parent waits until the child’s senior year of high school to think about college, it’s too late!

A student must ask himself these questions. Have I prepared academically and possess a strong skills foundation?  Did I take Algebra, Geometry, Algebra II, and other challenging math classes or did I opt out to take the easiest math classes offered just to finish high school?  Honestly, students who opt out and don’t challenge themselves to higher-level math courses have no business in college.  Why?  They are not prepared to think.  Higher-level math courses teach students HOW to think.  What about other core subjects? How well did they achieve in literacy, social studies, science, and other important classes in high school?

Not only should parents be concerned about their child’s academic ability, but they should also question their maturity level before writing that tuition check.  Is the child responsible enough to get up and go to class without parental prodding? Will your child study for tests without being nagged?  Does your child complete homework without you standing above him or her? Does your child manage his or her time wisely?  If the answer to any of these questions is, “No” then think again before sending your little darling off to college.  Maybe a local community college is the answer for a couple of years in order for maturity to blossom.

As a college professor, I shake my head at the caliber of students graduating from high schools today. They enroll in my class, but rarely attend.  They fail tests and request extra credit work to bring up their grade.  They make excuses and never accept blame.  What is my point?  Students need to truly examine their level of maturity before spending thousands of dollars on an education that may not be attainable.  College professors are not going to coddle and give you chance after chance to show up, beg you to turn in assignments, or GIVE you a grade.  You will receive the grade you EARN.

So, parents, set high expectations and communicate with your child before high school about the importance of getting prepared for college.  Evaluate their maturity level during high school and recognize behaviors that may prevent them from being responsible enough to be successful in college.  Not all students are ready for college the minute they walk across that high school stage and accept a diploma.  Why flush your hard-earned money away when the signs are there?

I challenge parents to read this article with their child and discuss the issues presented. Coming next: Find Me the Money!  Grants, Scholarships, and Loans….Oh My!