College Readiness is More than Just Academics

Starting college prep early in life has many benefits, including becoming an active learner, acquiring real-world skills, and developing the personal characteristics needed to navigate different types of academic, physical, emotional, and social challenges.

Preparing for life and college should be an essential part of any secondary education, but sometimes high school students make the mistake of focusing exclusively on academic readiness for college. They take all the right courses, elevate their GPA, and prepare for the SAT and ACT exams, but preparing early for college actually entails far more.

Independence, perseverance, and the resiliency to navigate independent living, as well as time management skills, goal-setting, creating a social life, and establishing good habits are all benefits of preparing early for college and life.

As we know, college is not for everyone, so even if a student elects not to go to college, there are many ways high school students still need to prepare for life beyond high school. For the purpose of this article, we are focused on college preparation, but many of the tips are applicable to navigating life.

What is College Prep?

So, just what does college prep mean? It is a term commonly used by all types of high schools, but essentially it describes the approach to the curriculum and compliance with state standards.

Whether a student elects to attend a public high school, charter school, private independent school, or a faith-based school, a college prep curriculum includes specific state standards.

For example, in Texas, the standards are established by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). The idea behind a standard-based curriculum is to ensure students meet the requirements to gain admission to a public university in their respective state.

For instance, high school students in Houston and other cities in Texas often find they meet the academic requirements to gain admission to their choice of public and private universities, including: University of Texas (various locations), University of Houston, University of Dallas, Texas A&M, Rice University, Texas Tech University, Baylor University, Texas State University, Texas Christian University, and St. Edward’s University.

College Prep Classes in High School

College preparation also means that students are prepared intellectually for the rigors of the required undergraduate academic courses once they are in college.This is why classes are required in high school, so students have the basic knowledge and foundation to progress through course material.

Once a high school student knows the classes they need to take to comply with university standards, they should primarily focus on working up an academic schedule to meet those requirements, and then focus on participating in class, developing good study habits, asking for support as needed, and getting good grades.

To succeed in college, students need to understand and master the foundations in high school classes and their grades should reflect their level of mastery.

College Prep Tips for Academics

Now, let’s take a look at a number of college prep tips, so you can begin working on these preparations in high school. Whether you are a student or parent, these tips will hopefully provide some key insights about how you or your child can best prepare for college or any life choice after graduation.

  • Enjoy learning – Explore how academic understanding and knowledge will tie in with the actual college major and career choice you have in mind. Independent schools, especially micro-schools offer very small classes and low stress so you can maximize learning.
  • Focus on time management – In college and life, you are on your own and are expected to show up on time, submit work by imposed deadlines, and take care of yourself. Follow a daily schedule, manage projects, and set up routines. Begin this habit now.
  • Establish good study habits – Find a time and place to study daily and follow best practices for test preparation. Learn how to lower stress and anxiety to maximize study time and truly enjoy learning.
  • Aim high to get good grades – Grades are important to gain admission to a college or university of your choice, but grades are also tied in with job performance metrics in employee evaluations. It is wise to understand how performance is evaluated in college, and also how it applies to the work world later on.
  • Improve your test scores – Even if your college or university is waiving SAT and ACT requirements, learning how to take tests is important.
  • Be an active learner – Learn how to work in teams, do research, develop ideas, conduct presentations, and ask questions; these will all serve you well in college and life.
  • Communicate effectively – Verbal and written communications skills are developed throughout your lifetime, so practice, practice, practice. Practice your communication skills when you are sending a text, an email, or writing a paper. Check spelling, punctuation, grammar on all written communications, expand your vocabulary, and express your thoughts and ideas clearly.
  • Exercise both left and right brain thinking – Most private schools incorporate critical thinking and creativity into classroom lessons. Learning how to analyze data, arrive at a hypothesis, and make decisions, all play a part in analytical thinking. Creativity counts equally, so don’t forget to develop new ideas and innovations as a great way to enjoy and exercise the right side of the brain.
  • Set goals – Setting goals will help you in college, your career, and throughout your life. Learn how to set goals and achieve them by breaking things down into smaller steps. In high school, try to set some goals such as: increase study time, create a book list, keep a calendar, improve study habits, improve communication skills, and achieve a specific GPA. Be specific about how you will achieve each goal.

College Prep Tips for Campus Life

  • Pursue interests in clubs and activities – Gain a sense of purpose, by pursuing interest groups, joining clubs, and going on trips. Not only will these experiences expand your horizons, this attitude will help you find like-minded friends, ignite new interests, and make school and college far more fun.
  • Develop leadership skills – Take a leadership role at your school in student council or ASB, so you learn how to manage people and projects.
  • Stay healthy – Keep your body healthy by following good life habits, such as: good nutrition, sleep schedules, proper hygiene, and exercise.
  • Take time out – Mental well-being is critical to prepare for the challenges ahead, so develop a routine now, including: time in nature, breathing exercises, yoga, or other spiritual practices to keep your mind free from stress and anxiety.
  • Join teams – Playing sports in high school allows you to continue to hone your talents, become a team-player, and continue to pursue these interests in college.

College Prep Tips for Facing Challenges

  • Develop good character – Trust yourself, your values, and do your own work. Cheating and plagiarizing come with hefty consequences in college.
  • Demonstrate responsibility and maturity – Even though you are young, now is the time to ask tough questions about alcohol, drug use, and sex.
  • Create a sense of independence – Make your own decisions, learn how to drive a car, manage your time, and set goals. Your parents won’t be around in college, so prepare by thinking and acting on your own.
  • Step up to challenges – This will help you build resilience and perseverance when you face challenges with academics, friendships, or other hard decisions.
  • Learn how to show compassion and empathy for others. In college, you will be surrounded by students from all over the country and the world. It is important to appreciate diversity and understand differences.

Hopefully, these tips will help you start college prep early, as well as adopt some new ways to maximize learning, prepare for college campus life, and deal with challenges when they arise.

While you are in high school, set yourself up to succeed in college by developing a growth mindset, work on your interpersonal skills, and develop positive life habits. It is really never too early to begin the process of preparing for college and life.

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