Get Ready for College by Going: Four Days of University Life for Urban Middle School Students
Mary Beth Schaefer, The School of Education, Department of Curriculum and Instruction
Abstract: Did you happen to notice about 50 rather young college students around campus during the week of February 22-25? They were eighth grade students from Junior High School 217 in nearby Briarwood, Queens, who came to St. John’s University to gain a sense of college life. Recent research suggests that middle school is a critical time for helping students get on target for college (ACT, 2008). In fact, ACT’s study shows that students’ eighth grade academic achievement has the greatest impact on their readiness for college. It is incumbent upon educators, therefore, to help students in the middle begin to understand what it takes to succeed in college classes. Offering middle-grade-students the chance to develop their college readiness skills through a hands-on, active learning approach may be accomplished by bringing them to college to experience university life while still in middle school. This research study describes how 50 eighth grade students from a local, urban middle school spent four days attending “College Immersion,” a program supported by St. John’s University and its New York chapter of the After-School All-Stars, funded by a 21st Century Community Learning Centers Grant
This is a qualitative research study designed to analyze and describe students’ perceptions and understandings of college readiness before and after participating in the program. An eight-question open-ended survey was administered. The study’s research questions focused on understanding what students learned about college through the College Immersion program.
Preliminary findings indicate that over 90% of students who participated in the College Immersion program deepened their understanding of the kinds of work expected at the college level. It was also evident that after participating in the College Immersion program, 91% of students indicated that they felt more confident about doing well in college, and they felt better prepared. Over 75% described their college experience as “fun” or “exciting” and many portrayed a positive relationship with one or more professors.