photo by John Steven Fernandez

In our conversations with young people over the past year, three major concerns came up in regards to college preparation: social life, being able to afford college, and college coursework. Most high school students are not socially, financially, and most importantly, academically ready for college and here’s why:

1. Inadequate Financial Counseling and Financial Literacy: 

College is a major, costly investment. With all the grants, scholarships, and programs available for students to receive financial assistance, students are still being left with high debt after college. A college student graduates with an average of $35,000 in debt according to CNN. Coupled with that, students are more likely to drop out of college if they cannot afford it. Wouldn’t it help if high school students knew a bit more about the financial process of college that goes beyond learning how to fill out a financial aid form?

2. Lack of Cultural Competency Curriculum: 

College is an extremely social institution where you can succeed, not only by earning good grades, but by how well you make and sustain relationships with the right people. If you’re coming from a predominately black urban school and transitioning into a predominantly white school and vice versa culture shocks are normal. Most public high schools do not have cultural competency curriculum in their college preparatory work with students. Most students are not told, given advice, or even trained on social issues that many colleges face. 

College is fun but can be a hostile place for women (sexual assault), LGBTQ, and people of color. The United States has a history of college uprisings and the most recent one at the University of Missouri proves that students in Boston need resources on how to navigate predominantly white schools.

3. Rigorous Coursework 

According to a Learning Lab study on Black and Latino BPS students “black and Latino males have limited access to rigorous coursework such as advanced work classes, elite exam schools and college readiness curricula.” When students, especially Black and Latino, are not given an opportunity to take rigorous courses, it directly effects their ability to handle college coursework. 

Rigorous coursework is essential for college preparation because college coursework differs from basic high school work in many ways. College coursework involves more reading, more critical thinking and it calls for your creative side. High school coursework is very mimetic which calls for you to memorize information and be able to articulate rather than interrogate, question, or critically think about certain subject matters. 

Therefore, when students are not given the opportunity to experience intellectual coursework, they are not receiving the core academic skills they need to be successful in a lower-level college course. 

There are many other factors that impact student success in their transition from high school to college. Many of which are rooted in how we learn, what we learn, and even where we learn. In response to the Mayor’s Office and Boston Public Schools initiative “BPS Re-design” we held our own conversation with BPS alums on the future of Boston Public Schools. We believe that in order for BPS students to achieve at a high level, there are structural changes that need to be made. What is your ideal school? How does it look? What resources does it have? Drop your comments below!

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