Preparing Emotionally for College

Preparing Emotionally for College

| by J.R. Deegan |

The transition from hopeful teenager to career-minded young adult has become a critically important experience – a connecting link in developing students’ futures.

Yet, educational institutions, squabbling over responsibility, have neglected emphasizing the transition experience from high school to college. High school educators think colleges should provide preparation, while college educators consider this a high school responsibility.

Achieving emotional readiness for college was typically considered something that just happens after graduating high school. But things are different now. The job market has become more intense, and the emphasis has shifted to early preparation before choosing a college.

Young adults in today’s demanding society have more choices, which means more responsibility in decision-making. A lot of those decisions have to do with education – what opens future doors and provides the skill level needed to achieve one’s dreams. As a retired college professor, I can sincerely attest to education’s vital role in my lifetime.

Yesterday and today
Since the mid-20th century, an unprecedented surge in demand for higher education credentials has rippled through society, directly influencing preparation efforts. In 1947, 5 percent of high school graduates nationally completed undergraduate degrees. There were few in number, graduates were choosy, times were less competitive, and having a degree alone was sufficient. Today that figure is 35 percent. Times are more competitive, and organizations are much choosier, expecting graduates with not just impressive academic performance, but also improved personal capabilities. This includes a willingness to do more than told, a developed zest for learning, and improved communication skills. The technology and information revolution will continue raising job qualifications and creating competitive intensity for tomorrow.

Longer, tougher road to success
Practicing personal capabilities during high school provides an early start to consistently improving those beneficial lifetime habits. The same ones will benefit high school, college and career advancement while also strengthening emotional readiness. Ground rules for success have changed dramatically and will continue escalating down a longer, tougher road to success.

Progressive sequence
The sooner a student starts practicing personal capabilities, the sooner efficiency will improve, and the sooner a competitive edge will be achieved. The high school academic arena provides the ideal time and place to practice. Never again is sufficient time, energy and youth available – life’s responsibilities won’t permit that luxury. Procrastination is cheating oneself.

A smooth vs. bumpy transition
Viewing the transition experience as just another grade change is myopic for today, reflecting an attitude prevalent during days with less competitions. Today’s intensely competitive world involves looking beyond just getting into college –
it also involves being emotionally ready.

A transition can be “smooth” or “bumpy.” A “smooth” transition depends on early preparation, practicing personal capabilities during high school, shaping a can-do attitude needed for success in college and one’s career. A smooth transition also establishes a solid foundation for many challenges in college – a launching pad inspiring proud academic performance.

A “bumpy” transition jeopardizes emotional readiness for college challenges, like fitting a round peg in a square hole. Waiting until the hectic freshman year to handle all adjustments effectively, jamming everything together, hoping something good will prevail creates a shaky future – a detour along the way causing doubt about personal talents. Students will question the value of their college degree, developing a can’t-do attitude and compounding difficulty as pressure mounts.

Benefits of emotional readiness
Transitioning into college life, students will experience meaningful emotional differences as they become familiar with the standards by which their performance will be judged. Academic performance is recorded for posterity. With so much more at stake today, high school students should consider college a first exposure to real-life conditions. Accepting that reality, students would have longer adjustment time preparing for this new challenge before choosing a college.

Understanding college-life adjustments and anticipating changes before choosing a college have many advantages. First, emotional readiness greatly reduces shock and confusion, while simultaneously building confidence and determination to continue. It also underlines the importance of effectively allocating time and confirms academics as a No. 1 priority. A smooth transition paves a direct path for future possibilities and emotionally provides a stabilizing force as students enter a time in life when financial dependency shifts from others. All adjustments must be performed immediately and effectively for best results.

Success starts from within, and developing a strong internal desire to improve personal capabilities during formative high school years when students are more receptive for understanding the value of positive lifetime habits is important. Perceptive students will realize the importance of early preparation as a forerunner in achieving a higher living standard. That’s the sobering reality of 21st-century America. The ground rules for success will continue rising, so preparation is needed for a degree.