Opinion: Do College Preparatory Schools Actually Prepare You for College?

The author, Detroit junior Rhiannon Slotnick, holds a flier that shows a 100% college acceptance rate every year for students. College preparatory high schools, even if they partner with a college, seem to only be concerned with getting a 100% college acceptance (Photo courtesy of Macy Wallace).

I don’t know about anyone else, but when I hear that someone went to a college preparatory high school, I think they were taught how to handle college life – but not how to handle life in college. When I say college life, I’m talking about doing research for what college you’re going to, how much you need to pay for tuition for the first year and what your major is going to be. 

I would know; I went to Detroit Cristo Rey, a college preparatory high school. 

Like many first-years, I struggled to adjust to the college scene. Not only did I struggle with coursework, but I also had trouble properly managing my time, finances and balancing a social life. 

In high school, I was told the classes I was taking would prepare me for college. 

Spoiler alert: They did not. 

In high school, I was taught to write essays one way and one way only. When I took Sociology 101 in my first year at Albion, I was forced to re-learn; I went from writing expansive and detailed medium-sized papers to writing dense and specific 10-12 page papers that felt shorter because they were sectioned off. The only thing I was prepared for essay-wise was writing in MLA format. I was expected to fit every little detail into a paper, but here, I was taught to focus on one specific area. Not only did I have a hard time writing in this new format, I had a hard time finding the motivation to start my papers with this style. I still do. 

I was also not taught how to properly manage my time. My teachers told me I would have a lot more time in college because I wouldn’t be taking as many classes, and I thought it would be so easy because I wouldn’t get as much homework for a few classes. 

I can guarantee you that for me, it is not easy.

I’m in a sorority, a member of Students for Reproductive Justice (SRJ) and obviously, I work for the Pleiad. I have so many responsibilities that I have to stay on top of.

It’s hard to keep track. 

Even if I wasn’t as involved, I still would have a hard time finding the motivation to start my homework. In high school, my teachers expected us to be on top of everything all the time – but didn’t advise us on how to keep track of it all. The only tip I was given was to use a planner and those don’t work for me because I never remember to use it.

I think high school teachers expect you to attend college for an education alone, not a social life. I wish there was a class where I could learn what life in college was actually like. One that teaches you that you’re going to make new friends and lose old ones, you’re going to be broke, your mental stability will be in turmoil and your body will change.

I didn’t get sex education in high school either; that would have been nice. I shouldn’t have had to wait to learn about this during my second semester here after going to SRJ’s sex trivia.

The classes I was required to take in high school had us write resumes and apply for scholarships, which was great until I realized they don’t explain every area that comes with doing those things. 

I kept the same resume that I was shown how to make during my freshman year of high school up until the summer of 2021, the year I graduated. I had scheduled a meeting in July of that summer with the Career and Internship Center to go over it, and she tore my resume apart. I’m still making changes to it as a college junior, but it’s not as bad as when I first started. 

I would be so embarrassed to turn in that first copy of my resume to a future employer. 

When I was a junior in high school, I took a “college readiness” class where I applied to colleges and different scholarships. The only thing I was taught in that class was that I needed to apply for those things, not how. 

I wasn’t taught to look at all of my options for my major. I had to look up what I could do with an English major myself because I didn’t know any other options besides being an author and a teacher. 

We were taught to decide what we wanted to do by choosing one job or career path. We weren’t allowed to consider all options; we had to make a path and stick to it. We had a speaker come in once or twice to talk about what college they went to and what their jobs were. This was during the pandemic though, so nothing stuck. 

When it came time to learn about finances, I didn’t know what to do. I believe my teachers didn’t properly show me how to apply for scholarships, they just said “do it.” We weren’t offered help during class on how to apply for FAFSA, only workshops outside of class that I couldn’t attend because of my mom’s medical disability.

Thankfully, I got into Albion, which is a partner college with my high school. 

A partner college essentially offers extra financial support and almost guarantees acceptance for students who choose to attend high schools that have a certain connection to a college or university. It wasn’t a lot, but I was able to access financial aid here and ease my worried mind about what I needed to do in terms of money. 

I’m forever grateful that I was able to attend my high school, but I wish I was taught more about adulting and what was expected of me in college. If I was taught less about what to do before getting into college, I feel like I would’ve been more prepared.

I think the main thing my high school was concerned with was getting a 100% college acceptance so they could post it on their social media. I hated coming to college and feeling like I didn’t know what I was doing. It made me feel inferior to my peers. 

If I was taught more college curriculum while in high school, I would’ve had an easier time adjusting to classes here, not having breakdowns because I felt so out of place and stupid. 

Prep schools, do better.

About Rhiannon Slotnick 28 Articles
Rhiannon Slotnick is a Junior from Detroit, Michigan. She is double majoring in English Literature Creative Writing and Sociology. She enjoys putting words on to paper for both work and for personal pleasure. If she's not writing, you can find her reading a book or stargazing around campus. You can contact her at rms15@albion.edu

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