“Students must be college ready to get into college.” It’s a phrase we hear over and over again, but what does it mean? Does it mean that on day one freshmen students must be able to write a 10 page professional essay about the current zeitgeist of presidential elections. Um, wait, don’t go look that one up. Zeitgeist means the “spirit of the age,” the dominant way that people think or behave that influences the culture of a particular period of time.
The current zeitgeist of college applications is panic, anxiety, frustration, and more panic. It is fueled by media reports about the 206,000 UC applications this year, with over 119,000 of them for UCLA alone. More tinder comes from the soon to come stories of the student who was turned down by all 10 of the schools she applied to, and the other story about the guy who got into all 15 schools, including all 8 Ivies.
Hint: stop listening to the news.
In general, it means that a student has taken a certain number of “college preparatory” classes and passed them with at least a C. College preparatory classes are basically English, Social Studies, Math, Laboratory Science, and Foreign Language. Some schools, like the UCs and the Cal States include one year of visual and performing arts. At Culver High School, the graduation requirements mirror the Cal State list. In other words, Culver prepares students for at least the Cal State requirements. Students interested in the UCs or more selective colleges should take more semesters of classes like math, English, Lab Science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics), and foreign language. Students interested in more highly selective schools should check the school’s specific high school requirements. Just go to a school website or the College Board’s BigFuture site and look at the list of recommended and required prerequisites. Make sure you talk to your high school counselor and the staff of the College and Career Center.
Readiness also means that a student has developed their English and Math proficiency. Even community colleges will test the English and Math proficiency of students. This is a good thing. If the student finds that they need more work on communicating and calculating, there are remedial classes that can bring a student up to speed. Many students who are proficient take entry level college English and Math courses, again, this is a good thing. A number of schools require all freshmen to take a critical reading and writing course. Bet you’d learn what zeitgeist is! Others require students to pass an essay test. So you are not the world’s best writer, many schools have excellent tutoring services and advisors to help. Take advantage of everything that is offered. It is your education, make the most of it!
College readiness is also a state of mind. Students have spent the majority of their lives being told what to do and when to do it. In college it is up to you. Never got the hang of time management? Can’t put down that video controller, book, tennis racket, flute, or cell phone. Guess what, now it’s time to learn to manage your own life. Don’t worry, there are plenty of people to help. Fellow students, faculty advisors, dorm resident advisors and the kid across the room with the panicked look on her face. The vast majority of freshmen are going through the same thing, learn to work together, learn to learn from one another. The skills that you are developing will help you long past your college days. Need to keep track of when that essay is due, what the midterm is on, or the registration deadline for your favorite class? You might actually have to use a planner. Yup, the same type they gave you in middle school, the type you were supposed to be using in high school. Or perhaps you’ll plaster your wall with sticky notes. It’s never too late to learn how to manage time and responsibility.
Don’t know what you want to major in? Don’t know what you want to do for the rest of your life? Don’t worry. About 90% of the high school seniors around you haven’t a clue. Over three quarters of them will change their majors two or three times as new avenues of education become more and more exciting. People who thought they knew what they wanted to study will find out that they were wrong, and will become intrigued by something unexpected. It is okay to be undecided. Think about what you do like? What were some of your favorite subjects? What are you curious about? What do you hope you’ll fall in love with that will bring meaning to your life? A comfortable salary wouldn’t hurt, but you have time to get there (at least your parents certainly hope so!)
College ready? Exciting pathways are opening up right in front of you. The future awaits and is beckoning you to join the adventure.
Get Smart. Do your coursework, homework, problem sets, assignments, essays, and so forth. Do the best you can in all of your classes. Finish high school and head out into the great unknown. Don’t panic, you are college ready.
Get Smart for College
Independent Educational Consultant
Jamie is a UCLA trained educational consultant.