Three Lessons High Schools Should Be Teaching Their Students | Joshua Fost and Jonathan Burdick | 4 Min Read

Interview by Alison Herget, Higher Education Program Manager at Minerva Project.

Many students feel overwhelmed when they think about life after high school. They know they want to go to college, but don’t truly understand what it takes to get there. They hope one day for a meaningful career, but don’t know where to start in preparing themselves for one. Educators can help lay the foundation for student success in college and beyond by considering these tips.

Help them understand that getting into college is not just about GPA and test scores

As most admission officers at selective colleges will tell you, they would exponentially over-enroll their class each year if they selected students only based on grades and their performance on standardized tests. Students need to look at the whole picture.

Burdick says that the numbers do not tell the whole story in an application. “Every GPA a student attains reflects the context in which they’ve developed; it’s an abstraction of three or four years’ worth of experiences. Tell me a student’s GPA and you’ve told me very little about them. Test scores have a kind of objectivity in what they’re measuring, but that measurement is only a tiny yardstick in a sea of things we’d like to understand about that student.”

Fost notes: “No matter how I’m interacting with applicants, students, or employees, I want to see knowledge and skill in action, not mere possession. In the high school context, that means coaching students to help them produce thoughtful works that show me what they, as individuals, are likely to do with the future intellectual tools they acquire,” Fost says.

Ensure opportunities for connecting ideas and skills across disciplines

Students have to be comfortable with being wrong and not always knowing the answers to a problem right from the beginning. By crafting an environment that allows them to apply skills across disciplines, students will become more confident in their ability to solve problems in unfamiliar contexts—in college, career, and life. The real world is not siloed into academic subjects. Employers want workers who are adaptable and can think logically and creatively to solve new problems, and students can and should start practicing these skills in high school and college.

“Individual workers are pressed to craft themselves as highly versatile, serial independent contractors—people who can gracefully work with diverse, variable teams and projects,” Fost says. “A T-shaped or comb-shaped education,…

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