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Study shows freshmen not always well-prepared for college

Alyssa Locklar

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While the University of Alabama is accepting larger incoming freshman classes, one study says that one-third of freshmen don’t feel like their high school did a good job preparing them for college. The study, performed by the College Board, surveyed more than 1,500 high school graduates from the class of 2010 that had begun taking college level courses.

The survey gathered students from various areas of study. Of the 1,507 high school graduates, there were both private and public four-year college students, two-year college students, training program students and some who were no longer enrolled in any institution.

“I don’t think high school prepared me for college, because my high school emphasized test scores and memorization but did not worry that much about creative or critical thinking,” said Geoff Carroll, a junior majoring in telecommunication and film.

“I believe that those are important when people are interviewing you for a job, and they have been important in my college courses,” Carroll said. “I think it is especially important in the upper-level courses that teach you to think on your feet and other things to use for your career.”

The other two-thirds of students felt like they were prepared for college and that high school did its job.

“I feel that my high school prepared me very well for college,” said Patrick Kiernan, a junior majoring in accounting. “It also prepared me by offering [Advanced Placement] courses, which allowed me to come in already having some course credit completed.”

In addition to some survey respondents saying their high school did an insufficient job at preparing them for college, 55 percent of students said college courses are more difficult than they had expected and 44 percent said they wished that they had chosen to take different classes.

The study also found that 24 percent of students did not test high enough to be placed in even remedial classes. Remedial classes are classes that go over the very basics of a certain subject.

At the University, incoming freshmen take math placement tests when they attend summer orientation. The score determines what level math course they will be placed in.

A student placed in remedial math will have scored anywhere from 0 to 189 on their placement test. Specifically, the course will go over introductory level algebra, which is commonly mastered in high school.

“Many freshmen are coming into UA and sliding by on D and C averages in their classes, and the University still allows them to continue onto harder and more advanced classes,” said Rami Ajjuri, a graduate teaching assistant and Master’s of Science candidate. “They are having a great deal of difficulty passing even their freshman course requirements, and the feeling among many of the faculty and GTAs in the biology department is that they are extremely ill-prepared coming out of high school.

“Many of them have very little ability to understand the concepts, and rely heavily, if not completely, on regurgitation of the material. They have been taught to memorize and repeat rather than to use critical thinking skills to access and come to draw their own conclusions. They haven’t been taught to solve real world problems at all.”

Ajjuri explained that certain organizations are trying to promote more critical thinking into teaching plans nationwide. Instead of looking things up and writing papers based solely on fact, they are attempting to help children learn in a way that challenges them and forces them to make opinions using logic and reasoning.

“The way a lot of high schools are being run makes it difficult for children to excel at the college level and beyond,” Ajjuri said. “The teachers spend much of their time focusing on preparing the students for standardized tests, so that the school receives recognition, which will hopefully correlate to funding.

“It really promotes a sort of ‘standardized test-taking factory,’ and the real world is much more complex and challenging than assessing aptitude based solely on these institutionalized exam scores.”

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Study shows freshmen not always well-prepared for college