“College success is dependent not only upon academic preparation but also upon a host of important skills, attitudes, and behaviors that are often left unspoken,” conclude Melinda Mechur Karp and Rachel Hare Bork in They Never Told Me What to Expect, so I Didn’t Know What to Do, a new Community College Research Center study conducted at three community colleges.
Community college students must be their own advocates, study participants said. One instructor put it:
Students who do not seek out advising, students who do not ask questions or who do not have self-advocacy skills to go, “something doesn’t look right here,” may truly not get the help that they need until they apply for graduation and receive that letter saying, “Oops, you still have these four requirements.”
Students “need to be told that there are distinct expectations to which they will be held in the community college, given examples of those expectations, and shown (or, ideally, allowed to practice) strategies for meeting these expectations,” the researchers write. “This could be carried out in college orientation or College 101 courses, or even in meetings with college applicants or in high schools.”
Students who don’t come from middle-class, white families especially need explicit instruction in collegiate norms, expectations, and understandings.