An Open Letter to Ninth Graders
By Patrick Sullivan
Preparing our students, long before they become our students.
Dear First-Year High School Students,
I am one of the co-editors of What Is "College-Level" Writing?-a 2006 collection of essays that focuses on the difference between high school writing and college-level writing. Because of my work on that book, I've spent a great deal of time in the last five years thinking about what students need to make the transition from high school to college.
Many studies and reports in recent years have argued that there's an important "expectations gap" between the skills students are typically bringing to college and what college teachers like me think students should be bringing with them to college. This letter is an attempt to state those expectations clearly, at least from my perspective.
I offer you my advice and encouragement as you embark on your high school career because I think there's a lot that you can do on your own to get ready for college. A good place to start is with some advice from Stephen Covey's book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: "Begin with the end in mind." I am advising you to set clear and specific long-term goals for yourself and then work incrementally over a period of time to meet them. I would like to provide you here with a number of specific goals that you can work toward over the next four years.
Let's begin with perhaps the most fundamental of all college-readiness skills- reading.
Reading comprehension, as measured by standardized tests like the SAT and the ACT, is certainly an essential college-level skill. Students in college are required to read an enormous amount of material across a formidable range of disciplines, and college students must be able to understand and engage with this material thoughtfully. Reading is a foundational skill that makes success possible in virtually all areas of your college education.