Expecting More Out of College Students

The big buzz in the higher-ed world today was the release of UCLA’s annual survey of the nation’s college freshmen.

I wrote a post for my college blog at CBS MoneyWatch on the findings of the country’s most comprehensive annual survey of freshmen. Here it is:

25 Facts About Today’s College Freshmen

While there were a lot of interesting revelations within the survey, I wanted to focus on just one:  How hard teenagers are working – or not – to get prepared for college.

The media is saturated with accounts of students who are numb from all the Advanced Placement courses and other demanding classes that they slog through. But how many of them are actually swamped by their academics? According to UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute, not that many.

Twelve percent of college freshmen, according to the UCLA survey, said they spent either no time studying or less than an hour of homework a WEEK.  Are you kidding me?

Twenty two percent of these students spent one or two hours on homework during an entire week. That’s about 15 minutes a day.

The biggest group of students (28%) devoted three to five hours a week to studying, which is also pathetic. Only 8% of college freshmen – the most studious of the bunch – spent 16 hours or more studying.

Frankly it’s no wonder that so many students arrive at college unprepared to learn. They don’t know how. It’s also not surprising that so many students don’t learn much while they are in college.

That was the conclusion of the bombshell book, Academically Adrift, that I wrote about last week. The authors concluded that 45% of college students don’t learn much of anything significant during their first two years and more than third of them don’t improve their writing or reasoning skills by the time they graduate. Astounding. Here is the post that I wrote about the book:

Do Undergrads Learn Much in College?

Frankly, I feel for the kids who really do study HARD. My nephew Kevin, for instance, is a junior engineering major at the University of Missouri and that kid studies. You must to earn an engineering degree.

Science & Math Majors

I was talking with my son Ben, a college freshmen, via Skype tonight and he was telling me how much homework he has in his Physics II and  Linear Algebra classes. He and his friend in his physics class completed eight homework problems in the past two days and it took them seven hours. Math is equally time consuming.

Ben, who is contemplating majoring in physics or math, has already gotten advice from some battle-weary upperclassmen in the sciences and math. Here was their advice: science and math majors need to protect their battered GPAs by taking one easy class a semester. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as you can get an “A” in it.

Here’s a final thought: To improve the academic experience of college students, according to the authors of Academically Adrift, professors need to expect more from them.  Maybe professors should start expecting just half as much out of their students as science and math professors do.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution, an Amazon bestseller and a workbook, Shrinking the Cost of College: 152 Ways to Cut the Cost of a Bachelor’s Degree. Follow her on Twitter.

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