As a means to address the number of citizens with college degrees in the United States, college readiness is a commonly proposed approach toward enhancing student success. This is significant as it has been estimated that “almost two-thirds of all jobs in the [US] . . . require a postsecondary degree.” Most administrators and academic advisors would like to better cognize the level of readiness of incoming students and how this impacts eventual success, especially as more students are attending institutions of higher education than ever before. It is widely accepted that students who enter college with proper reading, writing, time management, and study skills should enjoy higher levels of academic success and eventually graduate.
College readiness refers to “the level of preparation a student needs in order to enroll and succeed, without remediation, in a credit-bearing general education course.” Student success is most often based on student performance metrics such as GPAs and attrition rates. Others have focused on the characteristics that help students prepare for jobs and careers. In essence, defining this issue and its outcome metrics is complex since it may include a number of interdependent factors or variables.
Numerous studies have addressed these variables and found a strong positive correlation between college readiness and student success. These studies have often focused on measuring success via grades, graduation rates, or student perceptions. For instance, Cantor, Bergeisen, and Baker conducted a non-concurrent prospective cohort study, finding that students in a minority medical education program had higher acceptance rates, test scores, and grades in college. One study revealed a strong positive correlation between college success and “dual enrollment, a program that allows students to take college courses and earn college credits while in high school.” Several other studies have cited a conclusive positive affiliation between college readiness and student success.
Do higher levels of college readiness among incoming students of higher education institutions truly positively impact student success? College and university administration ought to strive to better understand how college readiness and student success interact to inform how academic advisors should act, especially as it relates to their respective institution. Often, tools or tests to assess college readiness, such as the College Board’s ACCUPLACER assessments, the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test, and the Readiness and Expectations Questionnaire are used to comprehend the characteristics of students who are unprepared for college curriculums. Regardless of the tool, questions based on study and time management skills, cognitive strategies (i.e., problem-solving, research), content knowledge (i.e., reading, writing, mathematics), and student perceptions on college readiness should be asked to better understand this multifaceted issue.
Having a higher comprehension of the readiness issue, in turn, can guide academic advisors toward certain mitigation strategies. The role of academic advisors in ensuring student success, by any metric, is manifold. Not only do advisors need to coach incoming students about the rigors of collegiate studies, but they also need to focus on the needs of students already enrolled at their respective school. Many have found that proper academic advising, as an aspect of college preparation and continued training, is integral to student success. In fact, improved individualized counseling with a greater emphasis on proactive advising strategies have been shown to improve student outcomes and academic performance.
Unfortunately, many students enter college deficient in college-level reading, writing, and mathematics, and have a low level of parental support and no sense of understanding of the expectations of higher education. To make matters worse, college administration, academic advisors, and other relevant personnel often assume that students know how to behave, study, prioritize, and plan. Due to these conditions and faulty assumptions, it is imperative that students, particularly those at-risk, receive proactive coaching and intrusive advising to enhance their overall success.
One way to better study this issue is for colleges and universities to develop panel methodologies to investigate before and after conditions by examining a student sample over a certain period. For instance, a school could administer a mandatory college readiness test to all incoming freshmen and then investigate results in a longitudinal fashion with a pre-test/post-test design (over four years, for example) to see if long-term success is truly being achieved. Though panel conditioning may exist, in addition to questions about sample representativeness, following a cohort of exemplary students throughout their academic journey to assess student success metrics and how those relate to initial levels of college readiness can help schools comprehend better strategies to mitigate the issue of preparedness and inform advisor strategies.
It is certain that all students ought to have equal prospects to reach their personal, academic, and career potential. College readiness assessment, and subsequent academic advising activities, ought to focus on reading/writing/study skills, character building, leadership skills, and service. There should also be a focus on developing these skills for students who may lack support systems, have low aspirations, financial problems, or a lack of exposure to current technology. Having a grasp of an employable definition of the concept of college readiness, as well as a tool to interpret whether students are prepared/trainings are efficacious, is vital to understanding and increasing college readiness skills, as well as how those relate to overall, long-term student success. In a time where college and university budgets are being tightened, these issues need to be better understood through practical, employable approaches so that administrators can assess the feasibility of allocating more funds to readiness assessments and advising programs. Doing so, in turn, will allow academic advisors to be better equipped to understand how to approach counseling and addressing academic behaviors that lead to better student performance.
Lorenzo Baber, “When aspiration meets opportunity: Examining transitional experiences of African American males in college readiness programs,” Community College Journal 38, no. 12 (May 2014), 1097.
David T. Conley, “Rethinking college readiness,” New Directions for Higher Education, no. 144 (2008), 4.
Joel C. Cantor, Lois Bergeisen, and Laurence C. Baker, “Effect of an intensive educational program for minority college students and recent graduates on the probability of acceptance to medical school,” Journal of the American Medical Association 28, no. 9 (Nov 1998), 772–776.
Brian P. An, “The influence of dual enrollment on academic performance and college readiness: Differences by socioeconomic status,” Research in Higher Education 54, no. 2 (November 2012): 407.
Gilbert Michaud is an assistant professor of practice at the Voinovich School of Leadership and public affairs at Ohio University, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Lena Michaud is the director of enrollment and advising at the University of Maine at Augusta and can be reached at email@example.com.