As education professionals, a common question we get is, “What is college prep?”
Technically speaking, all schools should be able to fulfill the role of college prep for their students. However, that is not always the case. This inconsistency is precisely why so many organizations have stepped up to fill that role.
Part of the confusion regarding the term college prep is that many people use it in two vastly different categories: courses and preparatory schools.
What is a college prep course?
We categorize a college prep course as any course that aims to prepare students for higher education. These courses often come in a few different varieties, including discipline and learning strategies, academic preparedness, and exam preparation.
Discipline and Learning Strategies: These courses focus less on the material a student needs to learn and more on the tools and strategies they need to succeed. A few common topics covered by courses like these include:
- study skills and habits;
- organization and time management;
- memorization techniques.
Academic Preparedness: Academic preparedness courses all center around a high school student’s core curriculum. Many college-bound students focus on taking honors, IB, or AP courses in hopes of preparing themselves for college and having an edge on college applications.
While honors courses vary depending on the school, AP and IB courses are more regulated. For instance, AP or advanced-placement courses allow students to earn college credit from a high school class. IB courses are offered within an international baccalaureate program and enable students to earn a globally recognized diploma.
Exam Preparation: Test prep courses prepare students for college entrance exams like the ACT and SAT. These scores are important for college admissions and financial aid applications. They often review test-taking strategies and the curriculum covered on the exam. In short, an effective test prep course will train students to approach problems uniquely using logic and creative problem-solving skills essential for success in college.
What is a college prep school?
College preparatory schools come in several different types of schools, including public, private, boarding, and charter schools. Altogether, they center their education entirely around students having a successful college career.
They will often combine all types of college prep courses and build many of them into their core curriculum. In addition, many schools offer service-based courses. These courses serve students well as they are applying to college.
Ideally, college prep schools will also have a well-established college counseling program. These programs provide college advising and goals counseling. They help students identify goal schools and stay on track throughout high school.
Should you be doing college prep work?
Any student that desires a college education will benefit from college prep work of some kind. However, it is up to the student and their family to decide the best option for them.
It’s important to remember that a program doesn’t need to be designated as “college prep” to fulfill those requirements. For instance, Grove Academy does not label itself as a college prep school; however, it does offer many of the same things a prep school would.
We advise students and families to consider their goals and work backward from there. Take a look at current academic performance and involvement, then identify potential problem areas you would like to target. It will be much easier to find a tutoring program or school that meets your needs once you know exactly what you need.
How can The Learning Team help?
While analyzing your current performance will help you see what next steps will work for you, we understand it can be challenging to see these things objectively.
This struggle is why we recommend students and families seek advice from a professional. Unfortunately, it can be nearly impossible for students to get individualized advice if they participate in non-traditional education or attend public school.
This is because these students either don’t typically have access to a qualified counselor, or their high-school counselor simply doesn’t have enough time. The American School Counselor Association reported that the average counselor manages 482 students. This ratio often results in overworked counselors who are unable to create custom plans for each and every student.
Our college advising service is ideal for any high-school student looking for assistance with everything from building a list of suitable colleges to developing a top-notch personal statement. By partnering with Capstone Educational Consultants, we can provide a comprehensive service that will take a student’s goals into account and offer them a step-by-step plan to guide them to success.