The right support is crucial for a successful transition to higher education, with improved outcomes for students and society as a whole.
For the majority of US students, pursuing a college education is considered a secure path to employment and the natural “next step” after high school. And with good reason: the National Center for Education Statistics reports that the employment rate is significantly higher among young adults with a bachelor’s degree compared to those without any post-secondary education. (Employment Rates of Young Adults, 2022).
But despite how large college looms in the minds of students in the K-12 system, there’s a significant gap between college entrance rates and college completion rates. The reasons for this are manifold — race and socio-economic factors among them — but a major one is college readiness. Or rather, the lack of it.
Why College Readiness Matters
Every fall, far too many students show up on college campuses eager and optimistic, but under-prepared for the demands of college life — some reports put the number at 60% of first-year college students (Chen, 2022). This lack of preparation extends from the academic skills and rigor required for the coursework to the overall behaviors, habits, and mindsets required to manage life successfully.
So, what happens to these under-prepared students? They get overwhelmed. They fall behind. They burn out. And they give up on the dream of making it to graduation day.
While the US public system should do more to address these shortfalls, many schools simply lack the resources to adequately prepare their students for success at the post-secondary level. So, what can be done for students who need help and support now to enter and complete college?
College Readiness Programs Provide the Support Students Need to Soar
Enter college readiness programs. These extracurricular programs aim to equip students with the skills, habits, behaviors, and outlooks they need to succeed, at college and beyond. Here’s how.
They build up students’ common core skills
College readiness programs consider several factors when determining college readiness, including grade point average, test scores, and patterns of course-taking in high school. Starting as early as eighth grade, they use this information to assess student ability and provide extra support where it is needed. In terms of academics, they look at the common core skills of English, language arts, and math, since these skills lay the groundwork for research, critical thinking, and reasoning required at college.
They help students form the habits of success
Going beyond the “three Rs,” college readiness programs also prepare students for the different expectations and demands of college, focusing on life skills such as time management, collaboration, problem-solving, and conflict resolution.
They offer students essential support and guidance
An often-overlooked aspect of college readiness has to do with students who are the first in their families to go to college. These students usually end up navigating the post-secondary landscape — with all of its requirements, deadlines, fee structures, etc. — on their own, without the guidance of parents who have been there before them and know what to expect.
This puts these students at a significant disadvantage, since studies demonstrate that parental involvement significantly impacts student outcomes leading to higher academic ambitions and achievement as well as increased well-being (Amaro-Jiménez, 2020). College readiness programs take on the role of parent in this regard, becoming a vital source of information and guidance, buffering the impact of the disadvantages faced by these students and improving their chances of success.
College Readiness Programs Contribute to a Stronger Society
But the importance of college readiness programs doesn’t start and end with student success. They create a ripple effect of benefits that extends far and wide, impacting society as a whole.
By improving college completion rates, college readiness programs help build a more educated workforce that’s ready to meet the demands of an evolving knowledge economy, where a growing number of jobs require post-secondary skills and training (Brand & Valent, n.d.).
There are other social and economic benefits, too. A study by The Institute for Higher Education Policy linked higher education to a range of public outcomes, including increased voter participation, greater social cohesion, quicker adoption of new technology — even an increase in volunteering and charitable giving (The Case for College Readiness, n.d.).
The Education Project’s Free College Readiness Program
The Education Project is a volunteer-run organization that offers free tutoring and academic support services. As part of our mission to help students achieve their academic ambitions, we’re proud to be launching a college readiness program that provides the academic and personal support students need to thrive at the post-secondary level and beyond.
Our growing list of resources includes:
- Guides for students and parents (available in English and Spanish)
- Financial aid information
- College statistics
- Checklists, templates, and trackers
We look forward to helping students make the most of their academic opportunities and help build a brighter future for all. Find out more about The Education Project at our website.
Amaro-Jiménez, C., Hartog, J., Hungerford-Kresser, H., & Pant, M. Identifying the Impact of
College Access Efforts on Parents’ College Preparedness Knowledge. (2020). School
Community Journal, Vol. 30, No. 1. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1257633.pdf
Brand, B. & Valent, A. The Potential of Career and College Readiness and Exploration in
Afterschool Programs. (n.d.). The Expanded Learning & Afterschool Project.
Chen, G. Are High School Graduates Ready for College? Studies Are Dismal. (2022). Public
School Review. https://www.publicschoolreview.com/blog/are-high-school-graduates
Employment Rates of Young Adults. (2022). National Center for Education Statistics.
The Case for College Readiness. (n.d.). College Readiness Consortium, University of