College Readiness Unpacked & Explained



Understanding the Data Behind College Readiness

What does it mean to be college ready?   College readiness can be an ambiguous term to many students, parents, and teachers across the country.  Our goal is to demystify the notion of what it means to be ready to attend college and succeed in college by using data.  The data is culled from a number of published reports by the University of Chicago to ensure a credible, unbiased vision of college readiness.  We will help you distinguish between fact and fiction in an effort to help students around the country get prepared for college, succeed in college, and thrive after graduation.  Below you will find the top 9 questions related to college readiness and data to support the facts around each topic.

How are attendance and college readiness related?

Data shows that there is a high correlation between attendance and college readiness.  In fact, research by John Easton and Elaine Allensworth at the University of Chicago attribute attendance as the single largest predictor of class failure.  High school students with the highest odds of enrolling and persisting in college have an average attendance of 98%.  In real terms, this percentage translates to less than a week of missed school days over an entire school year.  On the opposite side of the attendance ledger, each week missed by a high school student reflects a twenty-percentage point drop in the likelihood of graduating.  The data is clear: attendance is an essential key to success for students looking to enroll and thrive in college.

How important is ninth grade for college bound students?

The ninth grade has been found to be an essential year for students looking to move on to college.  Studies have found the academic performance in the 9th grade to be one of the most predictive indicators of high school graduation.  In fact, success in class during a student’s freshman year is more indicative than socioeconomic, race, gender, and other factors to determine college readiness.   Getting organized, staying on task, being engaged, and keeping attendance rates high are key to success for high school freshman.

Is a failing grade in high school an inhibiting factor in college readiness?

Let’s distinguish the difference between a student failing a singular class and failing several classes or failing a grade.  A student failing several classes concurrently or failing to achieve an academic threshold move on to the next grade are significant events with broad implications.  However, recent data shows that failing a single class may have a muted long-term academic impact more so than previously understood.  Research shows that high school freshman with solid attendance who have no more than one failing semester grade with at least five full-year credits are still 4 times as likely to graduate than their peers with a greater number of failing classes.  Underscoring this fact is the axiom that poor attendance is eight times more predictive of course failure than other factors.

Do solid ACT and SAT scores predict college readiness?

The short answer is that stellar ACT and SAT scores are good indicators of college readiness but not the criteria with the strongest correlation.  Data suggests that a student’s GPA is the best predictor of college readiness more so than standardized test scores.  It is true that standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT are requisite for college admissions, but high school grades are a better predictor of college readiness.

How important is your high school GPA in determining college success?

Your GPA is a highly important factor in determining college readiness and college success.  Let’s dive into the numbers a bit to underscore the importance of high school grades.  A staggering 95% of high school students with a 3.0 GPA or better will graduate from high school compared with 72% with a 2.0 GPA.  Likewise, a high school student’s GPA also have been found to be statistically significant in standardized test achievement.  Students with an ACT score in the range of 21-23 were assessed with peer groups.  The first peer group of high school students had a GPA between 2.5 – 2.9 while the second group had a GPA from 3.0 – 3.4.  The first group with the GPA under 3.0 had an college graduation rate of approximately 50% while the peer group over 3.0 were poised to graduate from college at a rate of 70%.

Is investing class time to prepare for the SAT and ACT important?

Contrary to popular belief, utilizing class time to prepare for the ACT and SAT are not the best use of time.  The data suggests the best way students can prepare for standardized tests is to consistently perform well in academic classes.  More specifically, students that earn A’s and B’s are more likely to see significant test gains compared to the peer group with lower grades.  Class time is best spent challenging students high-level reasoning skills through rigorous curriculum and an engaging classroom atmosphere to develop reasoning skills requisite to succeed on standardized tests.

Who is responsible for shaping a student’s world-view of college?

A surprising number of respondents place a disproportionate amount of responsibility on the high school counselors.  Research supports a view that is more holistic taking into account the school culture, peer influence, and student support outside of class.  More specifically, high school students are more likely to attend college if the high school is oriented around college preparation and college success.  The influence of teachers and peers creates a future-ready, college culture that students engender.  This culture is self-fulfilling and self-perpetuating the greater percentage of students attend college from a particular high school.

What are the biggest barriers for college-bound high school students?

The data shows the most significant barriers for high school students being accepted into college come down to financial aid and college applications.  Financial aid can be a make or break event for many college-bound high schoolers or simply any student with a desire to attend college.  The key breakdown in the process is when student’s fail to complete the FAFSA.   For a better understanding of the FAFSA, read our blogs below:

Should Everyone Complete a FAFSA

Top Reasons College Students Do Not Apply for Financial Aid

Everything You Need to Know About the FAFSA

Maximizing College Financial Aid

The second factor that inhibit students from being accepted into a 4-year college is the number of applications completed.  Students and guardians surveyed indicated that when students apply to more than three 4-year colleges, the rate of acceptance increased in a statistically significant manner.

Do college rates of graduation matter?

The brief answer is yes, the graduation rate of a specific college can make a difference.  Research by the University of Chicago reveals that students of all academic levels benefit from attend a college with a high institutional graduation rate. While graduation rates of a particular college are only one of many potential factors to find your match college, they can be an indicator of an institution’s commitment to help students succeed through their graduation date.

 

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