Throughout the course of our research on college readiness, the CRAfT team has frequently taken the opportunity to talk with current college students and faculty about what readiness means to them. Last year, we asked first-year Posse students at The University of Texas at Austin what they wish they had known when they entered college and what advice they have for future college students. This year, we asked these same questions of the new first-year Posse cohort. Here is what they shared, grouped into major categories:
Before I got to college, I wish I had known:
- How to study properly.
- How to study and organize myself. My high school did not have the rigor that forces you to study like college does. I would receive As without studying or writing dates down.
- How big of a gap there is in the level of learning between high school and college.
- To really learn calculus, computers, or whatever is basic stuff for your major.
- To set a workout habit.
- The cost of hanging out late.
- That food is good, but even cafeteria food eats up your money.
- To take care of myself.
- How to use my time wisely.
- How to use my money more wisely.
- That there is less time than I thought to get work done.
- The best routine for me.
- Better organization and self-motivation.
- Not to let personal relationships hold too much of my time.
- To say no to people.
- That college is a time for you to find yourself; it’s okay to be a little self-concerned.
- Not to waste my time in/with something mediocre.
- How to branch out and meet more people.
- That office hours aren’t as scary as they seem.
- How important it is to grasp all of the available resources.
- That there are usually supplemental sessions for courses to help make sense of what happened during class.
- How to talk to people on a professional level.
- How to get internships.
- What each major actually is and what it means for jobs.
- How hard it is to not have family around.
- To prepare for having so little contact with family back home.
The best advice I have for high school students preparing for college is:
- Everyone has different study strategies that work for them; know what works for you.
- Tests are the majority of your grade, and grades are extremely significant, so learn how to become a good test taker.
- The first tests will be hard, but you’ll get through it.
- Take AP classes and other advanced study opportunities to prepare for the rigor of college courses.
- Do your work when you get it, not right before it’s due.
- Expect the amount of effort you put in to be reflected in your grade.
- You say you’re going to change a lot of things, but it’s actually really hard. You need a really strong mindset with whatever you do.
- Self discipline will get you far with anything you do.
- Go to bed early, and wake up early.
- Eat well, exercise, and keep up your health.
- Emotional development and personal growth are just as important as academic success.
- Don’t forget that present happiness is important too.
- Make time to food prep more than just ramen.
- Do homework between classes so that you’re not crammed with work at night.
- Doing something as simple as keeping up with a physical calendar helps you get used to being organized.
- It’s okay to say no to free/fun time, but it can also be beneficial to say yes.
- Please use the resources you are given.
- Keep applying for scholarships and other financial aid.
- Research your major selection – career prospects, content – and find something you really love.
- Just because you can be messy and go to class in pajamas doesn’t mean you should.
- Give 100% effort in everything you do. If you put in the time and effort throughout the semester, you’ll see the reward at the end.
- Everything you do for the next four years of your life matters. Life has started; the adult world is here.
- It’s truly up to you determine how successful you are. No one can stop you nor do it for you.
- Don’t doubt yourself. You’re here for a reason; it’s not a fluke.
- You are not alone; you have a group of friends and mentors that will help you throughout. Ask for help.
- Call your parents more often.
- If religious, find a church home/group.
As you notice, very few of the items students mention when reflecting on their experiences revolve around content knowledge. Rather, college and university students today struggle with cognitive and foundational skills like perseverance, time management, help seeking, and when/how to use resources. We hear these same things from students again and again, which is why College Readiness Assignments are specifically designed to develop students in these skill areas rather than focus on memorization or repetition of content. Instructors who have used CRAs share 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 experiences with CRAs.) As you design your courses, keep in mind that the advice above comes from students only a year or two ahead of yours. What can you do now to set your students up for success? Get started by looking over CRAs here.
Special thanks to Vy Nguyen, Tulshi Patel, and all of UT Posse 2 for their contributions to this blog.