- The schedule. No college has any class meet every day; no college schedule requires a student to be in class every hour of the school day. Many classes meet for 2 or 3 hours at a time.
- Homework expectations. It is assumed in most colleges that for every hour in class a student is expected to work at least an hour outside of class on reading, writing, research – often more.
- Writing. In all but the least demanding colleges, students are expected to write serious academic papers of at least 3-4 pages every few weeks in courses other than Languages or Math.
- Online work. In most of today’s college courses, there is a significant online component to the course.
- Primary-source reading. The expectation in all courses in the sciences, history, philosophy, and social sciences is that students will have to do some significant primary-source reading (and writing on it).
- Close reading. The expectation in all courses is that students know how to read analytically and critically – and take effective notes.
- Self-regulation and self-advocacy. Professors will not seek you out if you are doing poorly. The expectation is that you will go for help, find study partners, seek assistance from tutors and special programs, etc. on your own.
- Choice. There are hundreds of courses and programs that a high schooler has never heard of, and electives begin in the Freshman year. Students need to be prepared to self-assess, experiment, get inside information, consider their interests and talents, etc. before they face the course catalog for the first time.
These are just off the top of my head. I’d love to hear from college professors – and older parents and recent college graduates – about their own list of how HS does not prepare kids adequately for college. I already know what some math professors will say, from my interview with Steve Strogatz, Math professor (and NYTimes blogger on math): students do not come ready to solve real problems (as opposed to simple textbook exercises.)
PS: Re #1 – many Community College folks note that there ARE courses that meet every day, typically math and foreign language. I stand corrected! (I confess I was generalizing from all the colleges I have known personally or professionally.) But the point remains, most students will not be ready for two hour classes and, especially, time between classes in which to be productive. Many people note that time-management is the real issue here, and thus needed skill – AGREED.
PPS: I am NOT implying nor stating that college is “better” or the be all – end all of what kids should aspire to. I am merely stating the obvious: kids going to college now, believing themselves ready, may be in for a rude shock. (Indeed, the 40% remediation rate is another rude shock about the disconnect). As many pointed out – and I often do, too – college is not a great preparation for life either. But at least a HS kid, going to college willingly, ought to be reasonably prepared for it, no?