"College is not the thirteenth grade."
How many of you can remember hearing something to that effect being announced at freshman orientation when you were a student, starting out on your college journey? You may have facetiously gasped in surprise. You may have rolled your eyes at the absurdity of the statement. (You were seventeen- or eighteen-years-old at the time, so that would have been totally normal, right?) You may have laughed it off.
Or you may have had a moment of clarity and a lightbulb popped on.
And right then and there, the epiphany comes: you are now a college student swimming in an ocean far larger than the kiddie pool at your former high school; you are among students who are older, more experienced, possibly even brighter than you, and there are educators who expect you to come to class with more than a shiny, red apple and a smile.
You are immediately expected to know the norms and behaviors characteristic of a successful college student, but … well … it seems you were absent on the day they covered all of that in high school.
College freshmen are new on the job, and matters are further complicated when students enroll in an online course but have never had to learn in a virtual environment. (Remember while it is true younger generation of students grew up with technology and know how to use it for personal reasons, they are not adept at using it for academic purposes.) Education is something that has been done to them for thirteen years prior to arriving in college (kindergarten plus 12 grades of elementary and secondary school); they may not have had relationships with instructors where they could question much of anything. And for the most part, a student’s progress was discussed between the parent and the teacher with little to no input or feedback from the student; they were the ones who had the conversations about effective and ineffective learning, the resources available, and so on.
And then they get to college where all of a sudden, we immediately insist they, in the midst of their own personal mindsets, take charge of their learning, that they claim ownership of their education, identify and use academic resources, and serve as the primary contact with their instructors in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). However, this is entirely new to them. Subconsciously, educators can forget the effective transition from high school to college amounts to more than a student applying to, being accepted by, and enrolling in courses at an institution; the transition is not the equivalent of plugging a string of lightbulbs into an electrical socket.
So this is the reality and a loose definition of the challenge. Now what do you do to address it?
Read College is Not the 13th Grade: The Solution to answer that question.
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Photograph credit: Burak Kebapci