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How to Know if You're Ready for College

Jan 11, 2012 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

Approximately one in four college freshmen drop out of school in their first year. That’s a high number. Students are frequently unprepared for college for a variety of reasons, ranging from academic to financial and personal. If you’re questioning whether or not to go to college, here are a few signs that you’re ready.

You’re taking a lot of AP courses

Just to be clear: if you’re not taking Advanced Placement courses, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not ready for college. However, just barely meeting your high school’s graduation requirements may not be enough to prepare you. It’s not uncommon for recent high school grads to be surprised at their low scores on placement tests when they enter college—and to have to take remedial classes as a result.

Remedial classes usually don’t count for credit toward your major—so they take up time and money better spent in earning your college degree. You can be reasonably sure you won’t need remedial classes if you’re taking AP courses, especially in the basics—English literature, writing, and math.

New Student

Shopping around for colleges based on price is notoriously difficult. But you should have a fairly realistic idea of how much you can expect to spend.

You don’t have trouble making it to class

College classes move faster and cover more ground than high school classes do. Sure, there are the occasional stories about large, impersonal lecture-hall classes where the professor never notices that you never show up. But those classes are falling out of fashion, and in many of your classes, it won’t be enough to just come to class for the final exam. If you’re having trouble sticking to your class schedule in high school, and if you’re constantly getting in trouble for truancy, you may not be ready for a college-level schedule.

You’re taking enough classes in the basics

Even if you don’t take AP courses—and some high schools have more of these available than others—you should be taking enough of the basics to prepare you. In general, this includes four years of English as well as three years of science and the social sciences. You should also have taken at least three years of math, at an algebra-level or higher, before you graduate. Check out ACT’s list of recommended courses for more info.

You can handle living away from home

Some students continue to live with their parents during college, while others have been living on their own for a long time and won’t be living on campus. But for many students, moving away for the first time is part of going to college—and it’s stressful. Some students don’t realize until they arrive on campus that they’re not ready to leave home. Others have trouble staying focused and managing their time without a parent and strict teachers to help them.

You’re prepared for the expense

Shopping around for colleges based on price is notoriously difficult. But you should have a fairly realistic idea of how much you can expect to spend. Private colleges can cost as much as $20,000-$40,000 per year, although financial aid usually brings the cost down quite a bit. Many students drop out because they can’t handle the tuition increases—so you should take that into consideration when choosing from the many schools that are available. And a great way to start your search for the ideal college is through General Education Online - a free and open resource database of links to higher education facilities worldwide for researchers and students. 

You’re sure college is what you want

Traditionally, college has been the place high school graduates go to “discover themselves.” And that’s still true for many people. But for students who aren’t sure, college can also be a very expensive mistake. Our culture tends to promote the idea that college is the best way for everyone—but it’s not. There are still high-paying and steady careers that don’t require a four-year degree. And it could be that for you, the best route to discovering yourself is travel, volunteer work, a year in the workforce, or the military. Going back later is usually more difficult than going straight out of high school—but for some people, it’s the better choice.

Ultimately, whether or not you’re ready for college is a very personal decision—and you may not know until you get there. But if all or most of these points describe you, you are probably pretty well prepared.


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