By Fiona Clyne
One should enter higher education fully cognisant that one will proceed on a path towards higher order analysis and thinking enabling one to contribute in society and ultimately instill changes in one’s environment for the betterment of humanity as a whole (Cote & Allahar, 2011). Reflecting back on my past, I perceived university as a means to employment. I had a consumer-product mentality (Calingo, 2013). I was not provided with the necessary insight of the demands of what a university education would entail. I did not have the right mind-set because I was not prepared (Cote & Allahar, 2011).
How did I develop my erroneous reasoning? Was I misdirected? Actually, I was not directed at all. I explored careers, volunteered, visited university campuses and attended school marketing campaigns; however, this did not provide adequate insight into university. I was the first generation to attend university; my parents had no knowledge of what was involved and could not help me in this regard. My teachers and counsellors did not provide any guidance or direction. I had no concept of the demands of higher education; this became quickly evident upon entering first year. In addition to having the stress of being away from home and being independent, it was overwhelming trying to maneuver a new environment, manage responsibilities and handle the workload.
The academic skill set needed in university is more advanced than in high school (Jansen, & van der Meer, 2012). The structure provided in high school to nurture the learning process disappears in university giving way to a highly independent environment (Gibney, Moore, Murphy & O’Sullivan, 2011). Although I graduated, I wonder what would have made my transition from high school to university easier. Cote & Allahar (2011) emphasized the responsibility high schools have in preparing students for university and purported that change should be instilled by teachers as they have the closest proximity to student related issues. Perhaps if I received more support and guidance from my teachers and counsellors, I would have had a more accurate perception of the expectations of university.
Aside from one’s residence, students spend a large amount of time in school; guidance from teachers/counsellors to provide information and insight is crucial in preparing students for their future. Despite this, few high school students utilize guidance services or find them to be effective in future planning (Bloxom, Bernes, Magnusson, Gun, Bardick, Orr & McKnight, 2008). Bardick, Bernes, Magnusson & Witko (2004) found that students gravitate to people they trust for advice, thus teachers and counsellors need to be proactive and build stronger relations with students in order increase approachability.
Students need the support and direction from their teachers/counsellors to provide a realistic insight into university. Attending a university marketing campaign and finding out about courses or programs is not an adequate portrayal of the academics and demands. Research shows that students who receive support in high school are able to adjust better in post-secondary pursuits (Hudley, Moschetti, Gonzalez, Barry, & Kelly, 2009) and are more successful in graduating (Walker, Downey & Cox-Henderson, 2010).
High schools have a vested interest in preparing students as they are accountable to the taxpaying public and the government. Universities also benefit from retaining their students as it impacts funding, future employment for staff and campus creditability (O’Rourke, 2013). Therefore all parties, students, high schools and universities have a stake in ensuring students are prepared for the pursuit of higher education. Educators need to identify and implement specific protocols to support high school students with gaining insight into academics at a university level. The role of parents and universities in this process should also be examined in order to promote a holistic support network for students. Moving from high school into university can be a stressful. Having an awareness of what to expect enables one to feel more prepared and can ease this transition.
Bardick, A. D., Bernes, K. B., Magnusson, K. C., & Witko, K. D. (2004). Junior high career planning: what students want. Canadian Journal of Counselling, 38(2), 104-117.
Bloxom, J. M., Bernes, K. B., Magnusson, K. C., Gunn, T. T., Bardick, A. D., Orr, D. T., & McKnight, K. M. (2008). Canadian Journal of Counselling, 42(2), 79-100.
Calingo, L. M. R. (2013). The arms race in higher ed: From both sides now. Huffington Post.
Cote, J. E., & Allahar, A. L. (2011). Lowering higher education: the rise of corporate universities and the fall of liberal education. Toronto: The University of Toronto Press.
Gibney, A., Moore, N., Nurphy, F., & O’Sullivan, S. (2011). The first semester of university life; ‘will I be able to manage it all?’. Higher Education, 62(3), 351-366.
Hudley, C., Moschetti, R., Gonzalez, A., Su-Je, C., Barry, L., & Kelly, M. (2009). College freshmen’s perceptions of their high school experiences. Journal of Advanced Academics, 20(3), 438-471.
Jansen, E. P. W.A. & van der Meer, J. (2012). Ready for university? A cross-national study of students’ perceived preparedness for university. Australian Educational Researcher, 39(1), 1-16.
O’Rourke, C. (2013). Every student counts. In M. Kompf, & P. M. Denicolo (Eds.), Critical issues in higher education: The future of learning and teaching (pp. 67-81). Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishing
Walker, D.A., Downey, P., & Cox-Henderson, J. (2010). REAL camp: a school-university collaboration to promote post-secondary educational opportunities among high school students. The Educational Forum, 74, 297-304.