Confronting Academic Gaps, Part 1

Marvelina Barcelo is the co-director of the Transfer Center and a member of the iFALCON grant team.

Pennants from many universities hang on the walls of my office, and seeing them, I often think about how to get current transfer students to act on the learning skills needed to succeed at the university.  I have heard mixed reactions from students on how Cerritos College has prepared them for the university, but I am not sure if that is the question at hand. I wonder if students are doing what I did when I was back in high school: compromising those long-term learning skills.  In high school, I was given the choice to continue with cheerleading or take honors English, both only offered during sixth period.  Obviously, I chose the fun stuff, cheerleading.  After all it was an extracurricular activity, right? I could put this on my university application.

For every academic compromise you make there could be crippling consequences down the road.  I have seen this with students who find this out after transfer, but in many instances it is happening NOW. Students have so many resources on campus to prepare them: their professors, peers, tutoring, etc.  Yet, many students are not on top of their game when it comes to “doing more” to be a successful student, even though they are aware of the benefits. For the most part, a lot of academic compromising is done with student’s success when it comes to their English courses or courses that require heavy reading and writing. My general education courses felt like an ongoing writing nightmare because of my choice to select cheerleading over honors English.  I truly felt like I had to work three times as hard compared to my best friend and roommate who took honors English. I don’t regret my cheerleading experience, but wish I were told of my options with greater depth and learned the alternatives. I knew that if I took care of my academic issues soon, my upper division course work would feel a lot smoother. If you are on a similar path, you need to take care of your academic business NOW before you consider spending countless hours on Facebook or texting in the classroom.

The first test of writing skills is to write a UC Personal Statement or a response to an essay topic for transfer applicants.  I get to see it all. I see the students who have revised their statements multiple times, have gone to various people for feedback, who seek feedback from instructors or counselors at the eleventh hour and those who simply do not take it as seriously.  As much as counselors advise students to allow plenty of time to brainstorm, draft, revise and finalize, it just doesn’t always play out for many students.  Many students work over 20 hours a week with personal obligations, but that will never exempt a student from fulfilling class requirements to get a good grade. Time after time, I see students taking too many classes for the amount of time they can allot to study. The main reason for students is to transfer sooner, yet their grades (earning a C grade that cannot be repeated) and progress (earning a W that becomes an attempt on their transcript) become sacrificed. In a recent conference at a local CSU, a speaker conveyed his admissions message very clearly: “those who earn good grades will always get rewarded.”

The next time you are on your way to your class, you may want to ask yourself the following questions:

·     Do I have any “academic gaps” for this class? If so, what are they?

·     What have I done to close those gaps?

·     What improvements have I seen in my academics?

Back to the iFALCON home page.

This entry was posted in California State University, Education, Higher Education, iFALCON, Student Success, Transfer, University of California. Bookmark the permalink.

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