College Readiness: Practice Makes it Possible

It’s our business to know college readiness. We live and breathe it; we write about and discuss it often. We regularly scour the academic landscape for outstanding college-readiness models, the programs we find are largely inadequate for our students, so we innovated and shaped ours around the idea of more accurate and more meaningful student self-assessment.

“On time, ready to learn,” is a common adage describing student preparedness, but college readiness demands much more than presence and a good attitude. College readiness takes practice. While there are several other important elements that prepare a student for the rigors of college—self-care, self-advocacy, decision making, among many others—practice is number one. Self-awareness and Independence take a close second—both require practice.

Let’s break it down.

Self-Awareness
Understanding your learning profile is a great foundation for self-awareness. Knowing how you learn (are you a visual learner, auditory learner, and kinesthetic learner?) can help you design a strategy for supplementing your learning style to make sure you are getting what you need in class.

Knowing how you think can help you create the best environment and workarounds for success. Are you a verbal processor? Brainstorming might be the way you begin to construct a term paper. Are you more reflective? Recording a lecture and listening later might bring greater comprehension. It is also important that students with complex learning profiles understand how and which accommodations have supported them. What have you relied on in the past? What can you let go? What do you need to change?

Such self-awareness is not always intuitive. No one is teaching this in high school. And yet self-knowledge empowers a student to pivot to their areas of strength that fit their learning profile. Once you understand your learning profile, your accommodations, and learning style, you’ll be able to set yourself up to implement your own learning design, regardless of where you go to school.   

Independence
Independence is a balancing act among shifting elements. The backbone of independence in college is taking ownership of your time. Class, unstructured time, study, activities, self-care, and social life are all vying for a slice of your college life. Good routines can bring some calm to the chaos of these conflicting demands. Students crave the dependability of routines. They create structure and reduce anxieties. Ultimately the self-discipline of routines creates freedom. Knowing what works best for you is key.

Practice
Do not assume that you are going to build habits on Sept 1st. You are going to have to practice. Practice helps create the habits and self-discipline not taught in high school but essential in the novel environment of college.

“The only way to learn something new is to practice. In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell suggests that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become expert at something. Perhaps more of a realist, Josh Kaufman, author of The Personal MBA, writes that to go from “knowing nothing to being pretty good” actually takes about 20 hours of practice – that’s 45 minutes every day for a month. So whether you aspire to “pretty good” or “expert,” practice is essential. Yet practicing can be difficult and painful when we’re used to having a high degree of competence.

Learning something new means being clumsy at it initially, making mistakes, course-correcting, and trying again. It’s uncomfortable. And even when we know the skill is valuable, it often makes our work more difficult at first, causing many…to stop trying new things and revert to old habits.”[i]

Regular practice diminishes our reliance on old habits and paves the way to mastery. Our students have the knowledge necessary to master the college experience; they often come to us because they lack implementation. Without implementation—in this case we mean deliberate practice—there is no experience. Without experience, uncertainty grows. With practice, on the other hand, behaviors become more predictive. When we can predict how we are going to behave, we are ready for anything.

Practice makes it possible.


[i]https://www.harvardbusiness.org/the-importance-of-practice-and-our-reluctance-to-do-it/

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