Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sudbury Assignment: Prepare for College

Many parents want to know what their child is learning at the Sudbury School of Atlanta.  "Sudbury Assignment:" is a series of articles that help parents recognize what sorts of things their children are learning and the depth of experience their child gets at our Sudbury school. 

Sudbury Assignment #2: Prepare for College

How does the Sudbury School of Atlanta prepare students for college?  SSA immerses students in a college-like environment where personal responsibility and self-direction are of primary importance.

The University of Delaware's Office of Academic Enrichment actively tries to educate parents and students that the environment of college is very different from the traditional K-12 environment.  Their article "Not Grade 13... What's the Difference?" says "Many students begin their freshman year in college carrying with them old habits that may not be useful in this new environment.  If you don't recognize the differences, you may receive an unpleasant surprise when your first exams roll around."  U. Delaware is not the only one.  Other universities like Purdue, Boston College, Southern Methodist University and the University of California all have similar lists. 

The "old habits" are the expectations and structures of a traditional K-12 environment.  U. Delaware and others have identified a fundamental disconnect between traditional K-12 and college that leads to difficulty and potential failure of students in higher education.  Students coming from traditional educational systems are like fish out of water struggling to survive because the two environments are so different.  Let's look at key differences that U. Delware identifies along side the Sudbury model: 

In high school, your time is planned by others, your classes are planned by others and your priorities are set by parents and teachers.  In college and at Sudbury, you manage your own time, you choose your own course of study and you set your own priorities.

Which environment is going to prepare your child better for college?
The one like college or the one unlike college?

In high school, teachers lead you through the thinking process and make connections for you.  In college and Sudbury, you are expected to think for yourself and make connections on your own.

Which environment is going to prepare your child better for college?
The one like college or the one unlike college? 
In high school, if you need help, someone gives it to you, whether you want it or not.  In college and at Sudbury, you have to reach out for help and even if someone sees you need it, they respect your choice not to seek it.

Which environment is going to prepare your child better for college?
The one like college or the one unlike college? 
In addition to these key differences, in traditional K-12, most students do not have the freedom to choose the areas of study that interest them.  There are endless common subject matters that are majors in college and careers afterward that are never addressed in high school classes:
Computer science
At best, these areas are relegated to an after-school club.  In college and at Sudbury, students have the freedom to pursue any chosen area of interest.  

Which environment is going to prepare your child better for college?  
The one like college or the one unlike college?  
Students at SSA spend every day of their K-12 years in an environment much like college.  So, when students get to college, they are very comfortable and already successful living in an environment of personal responsibility and self-direction.  They also may have been studying subjects in their major for years prior because they had the freedom to pursue their interests, just like college.

At the Sudbury School of Atlanta, preparing for college is not something you do when you turn 17 or 18.  It is part of the structure of the school and students prepare for college every day starting at age 5. 


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