By Deb Rooney
Over a cup of coffee, a friend of mine, who is a college administrator at a highly regarded university, exclaims, “...and you wouldn’t believe how unprepared these students are both in and out of the classroom!” I too have seen firsthand how unprepared students are. Since COVID, students have been set back and are not reaching the level of preparation that students were prior to the pandemic. Ultimately students are left with a lack of foundational skills, not only in the jump from high school to college but simply from grade to grade. My friend goes on to explain the current condition of college freshmen she is seeing at her school. Overall, she is finding that colleges are adhering to long-lasting standards that they have built at their institutions and students are not lining up as they have in the past.
“Academically, professors have never seen such a deficit of skills compared to the rigor of the university on this large of a scale,” she says. Citing that in anticipation of this hindered performance, the university launched additional support programs this summer to help freshmen transition and further develop strong writing and study habits before starting school. She notes these two areas are seriously lacking as students have not developed strong study habits amidst a disjunctive high school experience between in-person and remote learning. Students’ diminished study capacity has placed an unprecedented challenge on the university as they wish to uphold the rigor and reputation they have worked hard to cultivate over sometimes hundred-plus years, but also wish to educate and meet the needs of the next generation. But where is the line drawn? Will this trend continue? These are questions I do not have the answers to, however, I do know this does not have to be the case for all students. Through the cultivation of strong foundational skills, students can quickly ramp up to the levels required by universities today. By cultivating strong study habits as well as a solid grasp of writing, students can become prepared to be successful at their school and beyond.
Our conversation shifts from chatter regarding academics to the changing social dynamic she has seen on campus. She goes on to explain how much there is a lack of social development in students. Students are currently facing far more challenges than in the past because seemingly everything is becoming a challenge from human-to-human communication to finding comfort on campus. “I had one student who would not discuss a simple course scheduling issue and was not confident enough to select a course without having her parents on the line. It is a two-headed monster of academic and social setbacks children are facing, but the solution begins with helping promote self-advocacy to students as they progress through their academic careers starting in grade school. By allowing kids to develop their own positive study habits and learn to communicate with peers, teachers, and advisors on their own, we can really help promote students to shift from struggling on campus to enjoying and gaining more from their college experience.