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How do I know if I'm ready for college?

infinity88infinity88 3 replies2 threads New Member
edited November 2014 in College Life
I go to a school where anything above a 3.8W GPA is top 10%, where the average SAT score for non-AP students is 1100-1300, 1450-1800 for AP students, where the average amount of AP English homework is about 2 hours a week, where 4s and 5s on AP exams are rare, etc. Simply put, my high school is neither rigorous nor competitive.

I had a conversation with last year's valedictorian's(now attends a mid-tier UC) parents and they told me that college was a lot more difficult for their child who earned all As in high school and was now earning Cs in college.

I aspire to attend an intellectual and rigorous school with top math/science programs and high graduate school placement but I wonder if I'm really prepared for such schools. I have always been at the top of my class in math but when it comes to English there are always those who are stronger writers than I.

Although I excel in math courses, my SAT score is mediocre, which only exacerbates my qualms. (But I have consistently scored high on ACT practice tests)

I realize that in college I'm going to be surrounded by extremely bright students who have excelled at competitive high schools and am afraid that I will not be at the same level as they are. I have heard stories of top students failing out of college and am afraid of not being able to handle the coursework.

I have considered going to community college but have been swayed against it from my peers and teachers who tell me to "aim high." They think I'm going to go to a school like Caltech, MIT, Harvard, etc but I wouldn't even consider applying. Preferably, I'd like to attend a top liberal arts college like Williams, Reed, and Carleton, but am uncertain that, if I was accepted, I would be able to thrive academically.

Did anyone else have these fears when going to college? How do I know if I'm genuinely ready or not?
edited November 2014
5 replies
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Replies to: How do I know if I'm ready for college?

  • failure622failure622 1318 replies36 threads Senior Member
    College and high school are pretty different, the way you're graded and the amount of responsibility goes through a big shift. Teachers care less about keeping you on track with small busywork/participation assignments, and a majority of your grades will be based on several large exams, projects, and/or papers. You also have more freedom in school, so you can choose how to budget your time, how much to spend partying/playing games, how much to spend sleeping, study, etc. And you get more freedom in what classes you take, so you'll probably be taking classes that relate better to your interests than your high school courses did.

    For some students, college is easier because of the shift in grading and subjects. For others, it's a real struggle because of the responsibility, and because you can't rely on participation to get good grades anymore. It really depends on you. Back in high school I failed a couple classes and generally didn't care about my grades, after my first year of college I had a 3.9, then transferred to a great school junior year. And I know other students who went the other way, great grades in high school and struggling in college.

    If you do go to a top school, expect a bit of an academic culture shock, almost. Suddenly everyone is smart. That doesn't make you dumb, that means you're being challenged, and that's a good thing. You'll probably have to change your study habits, and the adjustment might be stressful at first. But if you put in the effort it's super unlikely that you'll be failing your classes, and schools provide a lot of resources (office hours, TAs, tutoring, study groups) if you do need help.

    I would say apply to the schools you want to attend. Have a couple reaches, some matches, some safeties. If you get accepted, that means someone in the admissions office thinks you're good enough for that school, and they wouldn't admit you if they didn't think you were smart enough. If you think the school is a good fit, you love the campus, and you can afford to attend, go for it. :)
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  • jimmyboy23jimmyboy23 588 replies20 threads Member
    It doesn't matter about your school's stats, all that matters are yours. If you did well on your SAT and probably even more importantly on your APs then yes you are ready for college. That's what those tests are for.
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  • Ranza123Ranza123 1322 replies23 threads Senior Member
    My high school was also neither competitive nor rigorous. It really did not prepare me for college; however, the adjustment hasn't been so awful. I have always been internally motivated, and that didn't stop when I got to college. The hardest part is definitely interacting with my peers in a classroom discussion setting. Most of them did go to academically challenging high schools and it can be extremely intimidating. Aside from that, though, I am able to get fairly high grades on exams and papers and keep up with all my work. You really just have to know yourself and know how much you can handle. Don't let your high school hold you back.
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  • intparentintparent 36292 replies644 threads Senior Member
    Another resource to look for at colleges is a writing center. Most colleges seem to have them these days. Familiarize yourself with it as soon as you get on campus, and make appointments for your initial papers to get off to a good start and get used to using them as a resource.

    My kid was not as academically prepared as a lot of her peers, and attends a top STEM school. In particular, her school offered no AP sciences. She worked her tail off freshman year -- a lot of the students in her class had already seen at least some of the material that was new to her. Her GPA was nothing to write home about, but she made it through and really loves it. She is a sophomore this year, and is finding that the playing field has leveled somewhat as everyone moves beyond material they may have seen before arriving on campus. She is still working super hard, but getting better results this year, too.

    I'd say that the admissions committees usually know what they are doing. Take advantage of all opportunities for help when you get to campus, don't sign up for too rigorous a courseload first semester (some people poo-poo it, but I think "rate my professor" is a good resource for incoming freshman who don't know any older students to ask about rigor and professors), and work hard to stay organized.
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  • bopperbopper Forum Champion CWRU 14518 replies106 threads Forum Champion
    I agree with @intparent....there are many resources on campus. You are ahead of the game...you know you might have some deficient areas. So you go to the Writing Center, and any similiar Math centers, get a tutor, go to Professor Office hours, form a study group and you will be on top of it!
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