In a previous blog entry, you heard from faculty, so now we want to share students’ experiences of readiness with you. As described elsewhere on craftx.org, readiness is about building skills rather than just memorizing content. We can present, again and again, what the research shows about readiness, but that is not as powerful as first-person student testimonials. These quotes from current first-year UT students truly illustrate the challenges students face entering college as well as what readiness really means.
We asked students to share their thoughts about readiness: what readiness means to them, what they wish they’d known, what advice they have for other students. Here is what they shared with us.
Not surprisingly, so many of the students reflected on the importance of key cognitive skills, including work habits like time management and planning as well as academic behaviors and motivation:
“I wish I would have known how to manage my time and realize that avoiding the smallest distractions will help keep you on track.”
“I wish I’d known attitude and focus are key to learning, not just memorizing, but really understanding the topic.”
“I wish I would have known the basic skills to succeed in college; things like time management and good studying techniques are very important.”
“Planning is the key to success, academically and socially. Planning 2, 3 weeks in advance for studying, assignments/tests, or even social events will have you ready for what is to come. The worst feeling is regret, knowing that you could have done better on something if you would have planned time for it in the first place.”
“I wish I’d known how to make a set schedule for myself so that I wouldn’t get worn out.”
An additional set of comments focused on students’ help seeking behaviors. For university administrators, the challenge with students isn’t necessarily making sure they are aware of resources, but encouraging students to take advantage of them:
“I wish I had realized sooner that the resources on campus, like tutoring and office hours, are for me to excel. I knew they were there from the beginning; I just kind of thought they were for others and not myself.”
“I wish I would have known that real life starts now! While there are many helpful resources, it is up to you and you only to take advantage of them. No one is going to wake you up in the morning; you have to get up by yourself!”
While students did not address content knowledge specifically, they did acknowledge the difference between the type of learning they did in high school (superficial memorization and strategic learning) and the deep learning necessary to succeed in college:
“I wish I had known to study hard in high school so I would have remembered the basic concepts, instead of re-teaching myself and doing double the amount of work.”
“I wish I’d known what way I learn the best, instead of discovering that in college.”
“In college, I’ve learned a new way of thinking and understanding. It was a hard transition, but I’ve learned a lot this semester.”
Lastly, students reflected on a few key points for educators to understand; the state definition of college ready is only a beginning. Students need so much more than content knowledge to be successful:
“It’s not about how smart you are; it is about how hard you are willing to try to achieve your goals.”
“Take a few college courses just to get a feel of what to expect in college.”
“Sometimes being considered ‘college ready’ is nowhere near what college actually takes. Be prepared to work hard and face challenges, no matter how ‘college ready’ [you are].”
These students’ experiences clearly demonstrate the struggle faced by college students when attempting to navigate the disconnect that exists between ways of thinking and doing in high school versus those in college. While high school education tends to focus on content knowledge and memorization, college requires students to exercise skills such as critical thinking, transfer of knowledge, reasoning, and judgment. One of the main goals of the CRAfT project is to address this misalignment between high school and college learning styles. Faculty who field tested CRAs reported that the assignments do a fantastic job of exposing students to college-style thinking and encouraging the building of these skills. (See our previous Faculty Testimonials blog for more information on their positive experiences with CRAs.) We encourage you to keep the above students’ thoughts in mind as you design your courses, for you are preparing students for their future. Get started by looking over CRAs here.
UT Posse Scholars, including first-year student Jesse Del Rio, contributed to this blog.