Even the best students are arriving at university unprepared to do well there. ‘Top Students, Too, Are Not Always Ready for College’ is the title of an article in today’s edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education. In thinking about this problem, the author—the Executive Director of Johns Hopkins’ prestigious Center for Talented Youth—argues for changes at the high school level that will engage kids’ minds and intellectual passions, and develop the habits of mind that lead to academic success in higher education.
While I agree that these are two important implications of students’ lack of readiness for university—as well as essential directions for secondary education—I draw two further conclusions. One is that students (and parents and educators) seriously consider taking gap years. A year or two after high school to work and explore the world of possibility can make all the difference in a young person finding what it is she really wants to do next, and act as an authentic motivator for higher education.
The other important implication of kids’ arriving at university unprepared to do well is that university is not the best option for everyone. We need to invest in a wider array of serious learning and training options including technical and mechanical programs, internships, apprenticeships, and lots more.