"If anyone ever asked me, as a college prof, what qualities I'd like to see in my incoming students (no one ever has, tho a number of non-profs have told me what I'm supposed to want), it's this: curiosity and a reading habit.
[Links to: "How Our Obsession With College Prep Hurts Kids"
The other really important thing for success in college, IMO, is self-regulation, but that's a super-hard thing for everybody & esp kids who are still developing cognitively. I see no value, & a lot of harm, in forcing regulation before it's developmentally appropriate.
Plus, IME, if you have enough curiosity, you end up regulating yourself in ways that are nearly impossible for a task you're not into. So it all comes back to curiosity.
The other thing that'd be nice - but is not essential - to see in incoming freshmen is an accurate sense of what college is for. Most people are pretty madly and deeply misinformed on that, and that's harming kids.
Too many kids come to college bc they're told it's necessary, or bc it's the only way to a decent job. Both are lies. They should come, when they're ready, because it's the best way to achieve next-level critical thought specific to one or more disciplines.
So we're back to curiosity again. But the reading part is at least as important, & is interrelated. I'm not an expert on instilling curiosity or encouraging reading in k-12. But I'm damn sure standardized testing isn't the answer & neither is traditional, required homework.
I'm pretty certain, too, that seven hours of mostly sitting still and listening isn't terribly useful (and at the elementary level it's downright cruel).
I don't think anything I've said here is earth-shattering. Yet the conventional wisdom about what makes public k-12 education "good" is soooooo far off the mark.
If I cld fantasize ab what I'd like my future students to have done before college, it'd be this: read & write every day, a variety of texts; interact in a sustained way w lots of different ppl; & practice creative problem-solving in small groups, guided by knowledgeable adults.
That's something public schools *could* do, they just don't, because it's not what the public wants. Even the private schools that do some of that are usually pretty notoriously bad at exposing students to people different from themselves.
I've taught everyone from super-elite Ivy students from private high schools to the kids struggling to stay in CUNY after k-12 in troubled NYC publics. They were ALL missing out in different ways. The best students are always, always the readers.
The best of the best I've ever taught have been readers from backgrounds that happened, for whatever reasons, to expose them to a wide variety of circumstances.
School is almost never what brought those students either of those advantages.
But it could be."