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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Who's ready for college?

Parents often say the high school diploma is no longer as valued as it was in the past, and insist that college is the best route to success. However, according to an August 2009 U.S. News and World Report article, 30 percent of university students drop out after their first year, and this alarming percentage could be linked to the lack of academic preparation given to high school students, which is essential to college graduation.

Some students experience difficulty adjusting from the structure of secondary schooling to the drastically different environment of UW-Madison, according to Aaron Brower, vice provost of teaching and learning.

""The biggest difference I see is how [important] high school training is to college education,"" Brower said. ""The big difference is going from ... a ‘how to maximize the bang for the buck' high school mentality or a ‘what's the least I can do to get the grades I want' to [a college mentality], where we're asking students to read in order to learn rather than read in order to memorize.""

Not only are some high school educational standards failing to coincide with college expectations, a lack of variety in the high school curriculum could be detrimental to student performance, according to Wren Singer, director of the Center for the First Year Experience. Singer said high school curriculums should emphasize an open-minded and multidimensional perspective about a variety of subjects, rather than just stressing facts.

Furthermore, students encounter a multitude of struggles because of the diversity in students' personal interests and academic backgrounds.

Benji Sudolcan, a junior at UW-Madison, has a different academic background from the traditional K-12 public or private institution. Sudolcan was home-schooled for five years prior to college, which initially hindered his college performance.

""I didn't do so well when I first came, because I was really sheltered [before college],"" Sudolcan said. ""So I wasn't used to making my own decisions.""

Sudolcan said the structure of college was his biggest obstacle.

""Now that I was in a structured environment, I had to get things done at a certain time and go to class at a certain time,"" Sudolcan said. ""I was just used to having free reign.""

Sudolcan said he regretted that home schooling could not provide the college preparatory courses that the public and private institutions could. Many education experts endorse these programs—intended to expose high school students to the academic rigor of college—because they have demonstrated their effectiveness in preparing students for college.

According to Robert Seltzer, the special assistant for enrollment management at UW-Madison and former director of admissions at the university, college-bound students benefit significantly from college preparatory courses.

""Sometimes academic success [of UW-Madison students] or their ease of adjusting is based on how rigorous their high-school coursework was,"" Seltzer said. ""So if they have a lot of honors, a lot of Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses, then they generally find it much easier here.""

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UW-Madison junior Minhtuyen Mai realized from her high school experience that not all high schools prepare students well for college.

""There's politics involved,"" Mai said. ""At my school, in order to increase Wisconsin Knowledge Concepts Examination, they take teachers from advanced level courses and put them [with] the lower classes with less academic challenges so that their WKCE scores would go up ... yes, it's benefiting the school in general, but for students who are college-bound, we lost all the good teachers who have the skills and experience to prepare us for college.""

However, some schools are taking greater initiative in providing assistance for students to be more academically prepared for college.

Coua Moua, a UW-Madison sophomore, had an academic background that was primarily focused on college preparation.

""Classes were in lecture form—reading, and taking notes,"" Moua said. ""During my junior year, the counselors and teachers made us fill out college surveys so that we could get more information about colleges ... they really prepared us. They would cut class by 30 minutes or so to inform us about colleges.""

However, Rebecca Ryan, the associate director of Cross College Advising Service, said that it is not simply academic backgrounds that affect college performance, but also an individual's attitude.

""When you're at the top and all of the sudden you get dumped into this big mixing pot, you're not going to be on the top anymore,"" Ryan said. ""So a whole new sorting process starts out ... the students who really think ‘Well, I hardly had to try during high school ... I'm just naturally smart,' tend to have rougher first semesters than the students who come in with a little bit more of reality on their side—those who weren't necessarily the top dog.""

Parents that support and encourage their children to attain higher education also enable students to perform well in college.

""If your parents care about your education, then I say you have a pretty high chance of doing well,"" Mai said. ""I would definitely say that without my parents I would probably be very influenced by my peers and not be as influenced to do well.""

According to Ryan, parents and other figures should be more cooperative in the education of their child. Ryan also said to ensure that students are prepared academically for college, schools must do their part and take a more proactive stance on improving education.

As finals approach, students may find themselves wishing that high school had done a better job preparing them.

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