While a survey released by the ACT on April 17 found that few college educators perceived high school graduates to be academically prepared for college, Georgetown professors generally found incoming freshmen ready for the rigor of university academics.
According to the survey, 89 percent of high school educators reported their graduates to be adequately prepared upon graduation, while only 26 percent of college educators believed college freshmen to be ready for college-level work.
In particular, however, educators at all levels expressed concern about students’ reading comprehension skills, with 75 percent of high school teachers reporting that high school students graduate with grade-school level abilities.
“College requires more critical analysis and critical thinking than high school, and everyone has to adjust,” Georgetown College Dean Chester Gillis said.
Nevertheless, School of Foreign Service Dean Carol Lancaster, who has taught multiple freshman seminars, said that incoming Georgetown students have generally adjusted adequately.
“I would say that students are pretty well prepared for college,” Lancaster said. “They are usually able to write essays well, think clearly, are ready to work hard and are, of course, smart.”
Lancaster, however, said that students often lack the ability to find appropriate source materials.
“Wikipedia and … superficial blogs on the Internet are just not enough for a serious, well-researched essay or paper,” Lancaster said.
To develop writing skills and other key academic skills, all four Georgetown schools offer or require writing-intensive seminars for incoming freshmen.
“I am less concerned with content than I am with the methodology and exposure of recent scholarship, which is what I want the faculty to model,” Gillis said.
Overall, Gillis said that due to the survey’s wide range, it was inapplicable to Georgetown students.
“The caliber of student that we recruit and the schools with which we compete do get the best high school students,” Gillis said. “The survey is probably testing across the board, and it’s probably not a fair playing field to compare that to Georgetown.”
Lancaster agreed that the university’s incoming students seem well prepared to handle the demanding Georgetown workload.
“Some students have an extraordinarily mature intelligence and can do professional-quality work from the get go which is always amazing to me,” Lancaster said.
While educators found students’ writing abilities to be most lacking, students said the most difficult part of the transition to college was the heavy workload.
“I felt prepared academically as a freshman in part because I was so apprehensive about the workload that I put a great deal of work in and did better first semester than I did any semester thereafter,” Galen Hiltbrand (COL ’15) said. “I came from a school that really emphasized college preparation.”
Ebere Anokute (COL ’15) agreed, adding that the work itself was not very difficult.
“The hardest part I found was not the material itself but learning how to discern from the material what is most pertinent and what is less important,” Anokute said.
On the other hand, Kyra Hanlon (SFS ’16) said that while her high school had prepared her for the rigor of college, she felt unprepared for the style of university classes.
“In high school we had a lot of daily homework, the teachers would kind of ride you and the essays were shorter, and here at college it’s more about independent reading time and essay writing,” Hanlon said.