How Can College-Bound Students Prepare For College Level Math?
A Christopher Newport University dean once told a group of college admissions advisors and school counselors, myself included, that college students should take as much college level math as they could, until they got a ‘C’. For me that would have been Calculus I or Statistics II. Thankfully, I did not enter college with an eye towards majoring in Engineering, Math or a science. I would have flunked out after the freshman year.
College level math is rarely a favorite subject among the high school and college students that I meet. It’s a requirement, something to “get through.” I’m sure most of them did. But they could have done better if they had been better prepared for college level math in high school. The math scores they received on their PSAT or their first SAT should have been a sign, maybe a call for help.
Unfortunately for college-bound students who either struggle with math or dislike it, most college majors will require a semester or more of college level math. The best way to prepare for college level math is to take math during every year in high school, until you get a ‘C’. The brighter students usually don’t.
Why do I offer this advice?
- Most college-bound high school students will take either the ACT or the SAT during the summer or fall of their senior year. The best way to prepare for the Math on the tests is to become comfortable doing math in school, or in practice books, every day.
- Take a look at any college catalog. If the college does not require a Math course, sometimes called ‘Quantitative Reasoning,’ in their general education requirements, it will require at least one in any Business, Social Science, Natural Science or Physical Sciences major.
- Calculus courses in college are administered by the Math department, even if most of the students who take them are not likely to be Math majors. It is better to get the first exposure to calculus from a high school teacher who has a Math and Education background, than a Math professor or graduate assistant who might not owe their position to their ability to teach.
- Statistics courses could also be taught within a Math or Statistics department. But they could also be offered within a major in business, the sciences or social sciences. Should a prospective student in these subjects breathe easier if the statistics courses are offered within their major? Not really; the professor who teaches that class might be the “quant jock” or “math geek” of the department. But, like the math professor, s/he or their graduate assistant might not owe their position to their ability to teach.
It’s doubtful that a college-bound student will take me up on this, but I suggest that s/he consider checking out the math requirements for their prospective major at every school on their short list. Here’s another suggestion: Go a step further, visit the school on a day that they can sit in on the math course that will be required for their degree. Those who feel lost will still have time to prepare for the day that they have to sit in that classroom, or consider another major.
Need advice on course planning for a college major? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 609-406-0062!