Parents often worry - but don't always share with others - their concerns about how ready their sons and daughters are to enter college.
Highly motivated students may stay focused academically throughout high school, but many distractions can draw teenagers' attention away from academics at a time when it is important for them to prepare for the rigor of college-level classes. Accordingly, parents worry.
Their worries may be justified. About 30 percent of students who start college this fall will not return to the same college next year, according to the American Institutes for Research. In "Finishing the First Lap: The Cost of First Year Student Attrition in America's Four Year Colleges and Universities," AIR also reports that only about 60 percent of students will graduate from "four-year" colleges within six years.
Pennsylvania College of Technology will offer a new program this summer to help ease parents' concerns and prepare students to start off on the right foot at any college.
RAMP Up for College (Reading And Mathematics Preparation), a four-week college-preparation program, begins July 9. Instruction will focus on reading, arithmetic/pre-algebra and study skills. Classes will meet Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The cost is $475.
The program can benefit students at any level - from those who have not met criteria for admission because of low scores on college placement tests to those who simply want to improve their skills before starting classes. It also can benefit those who have not yet begun the admissions and placement-testing process.
Participants who have already taken a Penn College placement test will have the opportunity to retest during the last week of class. Those who improve test scores to the required level may be able to enter Penn College in the fall.
Penn College's president said the new program is just one example of how the college is responding to the nation's need to increase college students' success rates.
"For students to be successful at any college, they need to have a foundation that enables them to meet academic challenges," said Davie Jane Gilmour. "Math and reading are fundamental. Knowing how to study is crucial."
The president said Penn College instituted a mandatory first-year experience course last fall to help every new student learn how to become an independent scholar, capable of achieving success in the college classroom.
The one-credit course includes lectures, discussions and activities to help develop an understanding of college culture, policies, procedures, resources and expectations. It also provides tools for strengthening students' academic and critical-thinking skills.
Gilmour taught a section of the class when it was offered in a voluntary, pilot format in Fall 2010. She said connecting with first-year students in the classroom was a "rewarding and eye-opening experience."
"It is important that we remember how much change is happening in these young lives," Gilmour explained. "As they leave home and take on their first independent experiences, they also are faced with new academic challenges. If they hope to earn a degree and advance in a career, it's important that their first steps be in the right direction."
Gilmour said Penn College also encourages students to use the summer months to "stay in shape" for college classes.
Tuition and fees are discounted 25 percent for all classes except those that are required as part of a summer curriculum in a regular program of study (including some labs and internships). Students who are eligible for the summer tuition discount also receive a 25-percent reduction in on-campus housing costs and free Fitness Center memberships.
Area students who attend other colleges and universities may take advantage of the discounted summer rates at Penn College and transfer credits back to their regular program of study. Gilmour said she welcomes the opportunity to see current and future Penn College students interacting with students from other colleges and universities in summer classes and the RAMP Up college-preparedness program.
More information on the RAMP Up for College program is available at www.pct.edu/rampup or by calling 327-4775.