Imagine a first year college student, waiting anxiously in her English class. The professor hands back the midterm essays. The student receives her paper, her eyes widen with disbelief; another D? She already received a D in another class, as well as two C’s and a B-. These grades resembled nothing of her straight A’s in high school. What went wrong in the transition to college?
National trends in education
Many institutions see this growing trend as a sign that many students are not ready for, or capable of, college-level work. A 2010 ACT (American College Test) report shows only 25 percent of the 2009 high school students taking the ACT possess the necessary skills to be successful in college.
Colleges now face choosing between accepting ill-prepared students and offering remedial courses. Community colleges across the nation have implemented remedial courses in nearly every subject to prepare recent high school graduates before moving on to a four-year college.
Wilson's experience with unpreparedness
Wilson College noticed this increasing trend and reportedly denied 15 percent of applicants last year, a 5 percent increase from the year before. When asked where the problem might be stemming from, Vice President of Enrollment at Wilson College, Mary Ann Naso said, "I think sixty-percent of the problem is standardized testing, high school curriculum is based around state and national tests nowadays."
Unpreparedness at Shippensburg
While nearby Shippensburg University added remedial programs for incoming students, Wilson College only offers two lower-level math programs on the course listings. There is an English tutorial class offered to students for no credit, if a teacher feels the student needs the extra work."
"We’re not going to lower our standards for applicants. It would be unfair to allow them entrance when they’re not prepared for the rigor and demand of college level work," says Naso.
The role of Wilson's Strategic Plan
Since the Wilson Strategic Plan calls for the recruitment of more students, the college implemented new sources to caution prospective students on what Wilson expects. A seminar presentation on expectations of college professors is given by Lisa Woolley, Assoc. Prof. of English, and Laura Altfeld, Asst. Prof. of Biology, during open houses. Naso comments that the seminars are, "a dose of reality [for prospective students]."
The College Board states that about 75 percent of high school students who take Advanced Placement courses have a higher chance of receiving their bachelor’s degree within the usual four years. Wilson College offers such advanced courses at the local James Buchanan High School, in which professors go on location to instruct high school students.
However, not all schools have the capability to add advanced college prep courses. Nicole Musser ‘13 says, "I didn’t take any college prep courses in high school, and I wish I would have. College is a lot harder than I thought it was going to be."
In addition to adequate preparation, high school students should also recognize the need to be their own self-advocate. Vickie Locke, Academic Support Center Director, points out the importance of early successes in college, "Early successes are what you build on, but failures happen and the student needs to realize they need help and then ask for it."