College readiness

It’s not ONLY the test! That’s the advice I give to parents seeking test preparation for their children in the eleventh and twelfth grades. While the SAT and the ACT play a part in the selection process, the students’ transcripts certainly factor into the college application equation. Therefore, strategic selection of high school courses is very important.

By seventh or eighth grade, forward thinking parents should start assessing the strength of their children’s basic math and writing skills. Are they capable of taking the most challenging level of math that the school offers? Are they proficient readers and writers? Is their vocabulary expanding? Are they acquiring and using new vocabulary regularly? Are their science courses challenging? Have they begun to study a foreign language?

A report by WestEd, a California-based research and service agency, has indicates that many of that state’s high school seniors fail to meet college admission requirements because they “fall off the college-preparatory track in ninth grade—and can’t get back on.” They suggest that school districts monitor course selections for college-prep freshmen to determine if their classes align with requirements of the state’s four year colleges. Certainly, this situation is not unique to California schools.

State-wide standards require students to complete four years of English and three years of science, math, and history to graduate. Yet the levels of these courses can vary widely, even within a high school. Test preparation courses can familiarize students with test format and strategy. However, they cannot supplant the information on the transcript or compensate for years of academic insufficiency.

Most public high schools have guidance counselors who may responsible for the emotional needs of hundreds of students. They do not have college counselors dedicated to assist junior and senior students in post-secondary education selection. Therefore, parents need to serve as advocates for their children to insure that they will have the ability to apply to a four-year college if they should so choose.

A one-day test is part of the formula, but academic preparation should begin years before students enter the test center with their #2 pencils and calculators.

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