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In the summer of 2014 I attended a dinner with professors from across Southern Ontario. The crowd was diverse in expertise and in years of teaching. In small groups, the organizers of the event asked us to consider and discuss some questions about research and teaching. When we spoke about themes related to teaching undergraduates, I was surprised at the predominance of one nearly unanimous concern, poor pre-university preparation. At one point, the small groups were asked to share parts of their discussion. Again, I saw a very clear common thread: tenured, non-tenured, and contract faculty overwhelmingly agreed that students were not coming to university sufficiently prepared.

While this may not be a new revelation for you, it’s something that more parents should be aware of.

The literature on the subject echoes my experience and it is important for parents to understand the implications of this trend. In the list below, I have outlined five online resources related to the transition to university. The list includes academic studies, independent research projects, and articles from mainstream media. I have also included brief summaries. If you wish to learn how BridgesEDU can help your child overcome the most common hurdles for undergraduates, please reach out to us at info@bridgesedu.com.

1. Jerema, Carson. “Your grades will drop: How universities and high schools are setting students up for disappointment.” , July 8, 2010.

This article covers various financial and psychological implications of declining grades in university.  Among other important insights, the author notes that “the best evidence we have suggests that it is the highest achieving students that are most at risk for being disappointed in university.”

2. Cossy, Lisa. “Transition and Thriving in University: A Grounded Theory of the Transition Experiences and Conceptions of Thriving of a Selection of Undergraduate Students at Western University.” PhD diss., Western University, 2014.

This resource is a dissertation produced at Western University. The study employs interviews of students and faculty from Western University and, among other conclusions, argues, “The substantive theory generated from the data explains that students enter university with inadequate skills, and with inaccurate knowledge and expectations about university life” (pg. ii). Excerpts from interviews with students are revealing and illuminate how students feel about meeting heightened academic expectations in university.

3. Academica Group (2016). Transitions in Postsecondary Education: StudentVu Transitions Survey Results. Toronto: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario.

This study looks at student experiences in transitioning into, through, and out of university. Meeting the heightened expectations of university is a very pervasive theme. As the report states, “A third challenging area for students was adapting to the new life and academic expectations of PSE [post-secondary education]. These were in fact the most commonly selected greatest obstacles to the transition into PSE, with many struggling to adapt to living away from home (19{605a43512f953fcdbff8e9ee02d3feecc6b92996cdbf590be48a35f2609dac0a}) and having difficulty meeting academic expectations related to workload and grades (16{605a43512f953fcdbff8e9ee02d3feecc6b92996cdbf590be48a35f2609dac0a}).” Additionally, 54{605a43512f953fcdbff8e9ee02d3feecc6b92996cdbf590be48a35f2609dac0a} of the studies respondents “felt barely or not at all supported by their secondary school in developing the necessary stress and health management skills for PSE.”

4. Kruisselbrink Flatt, Alicia. “A Suffering Generation: Six factors contributing to the mental health crisis in North American higher education.” Volume 16, Number 1 (Winter 2013).

Discussions related to mental health on Canadian campuses have become increasingly common. As research shows, the number of university students struggling with mental health issues is on the rise. This academic article addresses the growing concern and outlines six factors that contribute to “the mental health crisis” in universities across North America.

5. Chen, Xianglei and C. Dennis Carroll. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, 2005.

This American based study compares first-generation students (those who are the first in their family to attend post-secondary education) with students whose parents attended university. The research shows that, “first-generation students consistently remained at a disadvantage after entering post secondary education” (pg. ix). The research and charts used to support this argument offer interesting comparisons and insights.