At a recent visit day on campus, a parent of a prospective student asked me if I felt prepared for college when I arrived to Transylvania, considering that I was moving from a public high school to a private university.
I could understand why she asked, because it’s often assumed that private schools are much more challenging than public ones, but I still couldn’t help but feel full of pride for my high school as I responded, “Of course I was prepared!”
And that’s absolutely true. Yes, I do think there can be advantages to attending a private high school — there are surely different opportunities there than at some public schools. I even remember wondering when I got here if I would somehow be behind in my classes, since I had met several students who had attended private schools all their lives.
But I was pleasantly surprised during all of my classes that I was more than prepared for the academic rigor at Transylvania.
College readiness is about so much more than just the kind of high school you attended. In fact, I’d argue that it’s more about what kind of student you are. Sure, if you never challenged yourself in high school, college would probably be a difficult transition. I knew several people that had to teach themselves how to study when they started college, because they had never needed to study to get good grades in high school.
That was never me. I always wanted to prepare myself for tests, and I was more likely to over-study than to skip it all together. I always felt like I needed that reassurance that studying gave me to feel confident when approaching a test or project.
High school is really more about what you make of it. I attended a public high school, but I took advantage of the classes we offered — choosing AP or honors courses over the standard versions whenever possible. I took classes that I knew would be difficult (like physics…), because I wanted to enter college as prepared as I possibly could.
And it’s not too late to do the same. If you’re a sophomore or junior, make sure you take challenging courses next year. I know our admissions counselors look at the difficulty of the classes you took along with the grades you earned — it’s more impressive to get a B in an AP class than an A+ in an easier one because it shows that you challenged yourself.
The same is true for extra-curricular activities. Don’t just join clubs and show up occasionally so you can list them on your résumé. Find activities and teams that you can really devote your time and energy to — take a leadership role in a couple and do something big with them. Those are the things that will be most beneficial to you as you move on to college and beyond.
So no, maybe high school doesn’t prepare you for college. You prepare yourself.