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Martha McCarthy
Director, High School Survey of Student Engagement

Tracy James
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Monday, May 9, 2005

High school students need college prep reality check

IU report adds to national discussion of high school education

Martha McCarthy

MONDAY, MAY 9, 2005

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Most high school students say they plan on going to college. Yet they fail to put in the necessary time and academic effort before graduation to succeed in college, according to a special report from Indiana University's High School Survey of Student Engagement.

"Students reported that their effort was adequate for their high school courses, yet it falls well short of what will be required of them in college," said IU Professor Martha McCarthy, director of HSSSE and author of the new report.

The findings suggest that high school courses should be significantly more rigorous in all grades and instructional tracks.

"Getting Students Ready for College: What Student Engagement Data Can Tell Us" examines select findings from HSSSE, the National Survey of Student Engagement, and the Community College Survey of Student Engagement, all nationwide surveys drawing on tens of thousands of students.

The special report, released today (May 9), comes as scrutiny of high school education nationwide is intensifying. "Getting Students Ready" offers insights into why high school education has become such a hot topic. The findings also can help educators identify school practices that can be changed to strengthen high school students' preparation for higher education and the work force.

The report can be found at Here are some of the findings:

  • College students are supposed to study two to three hours outside of class for every hour in class, yet 55 percent of HSSSE respondents said they spent three hours or less per week preparing for all of their classes.
  • Of the high school students surveyed, 88 percent said they had the necessary skills to complete their assignments, and two-thirds said their school contributed substantially to preparing them for college. Thus, this report suggests that students are not as well prepared for college as they think.
  • Of HSSSE respondents, 82 percent said they planned on enrolling in some form of postsecondary education, and another 10 percent were undecided, reflecting a large gap between aspirations and reality. Only 27 percent of ninth graders, for example, will enroll in and remain in college a second year, according to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. Thus, the HSSSE special report points to a need for high school staff to identify students who need more help planning for the future and to ensure that all students are involved in appropriate educational experiences during high school to help them achieve their goals.

Results from the second annual HSSSE survey will be released in July. HSSSE identifies student behaviors and school characteristics that can be changed -- often with minimal expense -- to enhance student learning. Survey results complement standardized test scores by providing data on the experiences that influence high school students' academic performance. HSSSE is housed in the School of Education at Indiana University's Bloomington campus.

McCarthy can be reached at 812-856-8384 and More information about HSSSE is available at