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Student Misconceptions About College Life Can Undermine Success

College readiness is about more than academic preparation.

New research released Tuesday finds that many students don't have a realistic picture of the demands of college and that lack of knowledge can hurt their success once they arrive on campus.

Preparing Students to Transition from High School to College, compiled by IQS Research, based in Louisville, Ky., used information from telephone surveys, focus groups, and online surveys of students and parents to give a snapshot of expectations toward college. It found that many students believe college will just be a continuation of their high school experience and don't anticipate the rigor they may encounter.

The report found:

• Only 11 percent of students believe that college will be "difficult." Another 40 percent are not sure, and 49 percent anticipate it will not be difficult.

• Fewer than 1 in 5 students are concerned about how to begin their college experience.

• Nearly 70 percent of students don't think that balancing school with their personal and work lives will be a real problem for them in college.

The authors note that if students don't think college will be hard or a challenging adjustment, they may not adequately prepare themselves or adopt the habits needed in college to be successful. While academic failure is a major reason students drop out of college, the report suggests that it is important to be aware of the attitudinal and behavioral hindrances that contribute to poor performance.

Students who perform well in college are those who maintain a realistic attitude about the challenges of school, develop study habits that reflect the demands of the coursework, and use resources on campus, especially professors and advisers when help in needed.

To counter the widespread misconceptions about college, the authors suggests it will take a combined effort of parents, counselors, and teachers.

Parents need to convey the importance and rigor of college to children at an early age so they will be better prepared. More challenging math and science coursework has been linked to higher grades and college admissions chances, yet the report finds only half of parents support increasing the number of math classes a student must take and 41 percent think science requirements should be ramped up.

Counselors are the single biggest source of college awareness, but the survey found only 4 in 10 students said they received college information from their high school counselor. Students said they felt counselors were unapproachable and lacked adequate knowledge.

Finally, teachers can be a great influence on students' aspiration to attend college and promote a realistic perception of what college will entail. To create this awareness, teachers and professors need to make themselves more accessible, particularly to lower-performing students who may be reluctant to seek out information, the authors concluded.

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