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Get ready for college reading

Here's what to do to make sure your student is prepared for college-level reading.

By GreatSchools Staff

Your student is more likely to avoid pulling all-nighters if he's prepared and knows the skills necessary to meet the demands of a college curriculum. What's the best way to be prepared? Stretching reading skills in high school.

When students are prepared to meet the demands of college-level reading, they are more likely to keep up with the workload, gain more from their college experience, and graduate in a timely fashion.

If you think remedial courses in college will make up for inadequate preparation in high school, think again. A recent U.S. Department of Education report noted that 70% of students who took one or more remedial reading courses in college did not attain a college degree or certificate within eight years of enrollment. It's evident that early preparation is the key to college success, and there are key steps you can help your student take no matter what grade she is in now.

College readiness requires advanced skills

"A significant proportion of incoming college students have difficulty understanding the gist of academic writing at the college level. It's a challenge for them to see writing from the inside out," says John Briggs, Associate Professor of English at UC Riverside and a member of the College Board SAT Reading Development Committee. "Students know about topic sentences and main ideas, but they don't understand the questions the writer is addressing and they don't have enough experience participating in academic conversations."

Yet despite the need for students to learn complex skills to succeed in college, more and more high schools across the country are focusing on the achievement of basic skills to prepare students to pass state standardized tests. "There's a basic conflict schools have between basic skills and college readiness," notes David Conley, author of College Knowledge: What It Really Takes for Students to Succeed and What We Can Do to Get Them Ready. College readiness requires research and writing, and analyzing complex issues - a far cry from filling in bubbles on standardized tests. Currently 26 states have or are considering implementing high school exit exams, many of which require students to have only an eighth- or 10th-grade ability in reading and math to graduate.

A recent report by ACT entitled "Reading Between the Lines: What the ACT Reveals About College Readiness in Reading," discovered that more students are on track to being ready for college-level reading in eighth and 10th grade than are actually ready in 12th grade. The report also states that only about half of ACT-tested high school students are ready for college-level reading. While middle school classes focus on building reading skills, most high school English classes don't, says Ed Colby of ACT. "Specific reading instruction is over once students pass out of middle school," he notes.

Comments from readers

"I want to preper my daughter for college she want to be a DENTIST i want her to be ready for it in the nex 2 year "
"I have a question, too, actually. I want to know if a student from a country in Europe, such as Greece or Romania, can apply in 11th grade to a high school in the u.s. in order to have a better chance to be accepted at an university in the u.s. You know, to finish his/her last two years of high school here, knowing that he or she has been studying English at quite a high level. Is this possible? What do they have to do? Do they have the same chance as students who are already in u.s.? I have a friend who has this problem and I really have no idea what to advice her."
"Some school aren't preparing students for college. They don't care about our children. True, parents need to do their part at home with makiing sure they are reinforcing education at home, but what if parents don't know what to do? They didn't go to school to become a teacher. I appreciate any answers to my question. "
"I echo the comment from TN 9/11/06. I read this article specifically to see if speed reading was mentioned. I feel strongly that it should be taught in middle school or high school. Even though I was a strong reader, upon entering college, I was overwhelmed by the volume of reading required. I know I could have achieved much more had I been able to read faster."
"I believe this article (and others like it I have read elsewhere)leaves out a very important point about learning to read fast. Speed reading is a skill that can be most valuable at college when you have hundreds of pages to read to prepare for classes, tests, do research, etc. No one ever mentions it. No one mentioned it to me when I was preparing for college either. I sure could have used some speed reading skills in those days. Todays college bound kids need to know this. It should be emphasized, not ingored."
"Great article, how do we encourage our children to build study groups? I have not heard of any of my child's friends having study groups. "