Does High School Prepare You For College?

Students at the University of Evansville. Courtesy photo

Transitioning from high school to college is a big step. And for most, that happens at a young age. So, how well does high school prepare students for college? Pretty well, says a new study of about 1,500 current college students. The study, which was conducted by Grand Canyon University, found that 79.2% of respondents felt that high school properly prepared them for college. When asked to rate on a zero-to-10 scale how well they thought high school prepared them for college, respondents had an average score of 7.1.

“Overall, results indicate that high school appears to be doing a decent job of setting students up for success in college,” the report concludes of the broad results. “Nearly four out of every five respondents feel high school properly prepared them.”

The survey also asked respondents specifics about areas in which they felt prepared. For example, the most respondents (57.6%) said they felt high school succeeded in helping them develop the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in college-level courses. On the other hand, just 29.6% of respondents said high school succeeded in helping them develop pre-collegiate skills and knowledge that would be beneficial in a future career.

From the Grand Canyon University Survey

Grand Canyon also asked the current college students where they felt high school failed them. More than half of respondents (53.5%) said they felt high school failed at developing their skills and knowledge to live on their own in the future. Interestingly, the lowest percentage (30.0%) of respondents said high school failed at preparing them with pre-collegiate skills and knowledge that would be beneficial in their future careers, contradicting the succeeded questions discussed above.


Personal finance is what most respondents (60.9%) said they wished was a bigger part of their high school education. Job prep was the next highest category, where 50.2% said they would’ve liked to see more emphasis on in high school. Only 17.2% of respondents — less than any other category — said they wish their high school education would’ve included more media literacy. In the age of misinformation and fake news, that result is somewhat worrisome.

“Given that college is a time when young adults are living on their own for the first time and learning how to deal with tuition and other education fees, it is no surprise that many wish they had been taught more personal finance skills in high school,” the report says. “Tracking and budgeting for all of these new expenses for the first time can be overwhelming, Unfortunately mistakes and decisions made in this confusing time of life can have long-term financial consequences.”


Grand Canyon University also examined how those attending private high schools rated their experience compared to respondents attending public high schools. Across the board, graduates of private universities reported they felt their high schools better prepared them for the future than public universities.

Overall, 85.5% of respondents graduating from private high schools said those high schools adequately prepared them for college. For public high school graduates, the rate dipped to 76.7%. On the zero-to-10 scale, private high school students rated their schools at 7.5 for their overall preparedness level, compared to 6.9 from public school students.

Again, when asked about five specific areas for preparedness, private school students gave higher scores in all categories. But the biggest gaps from public school students came when asked how their high schools developed their skills and knowledge to live on their own in the future (6.5 for private school and 5.6 for public school) and developing pre-collegiate skills and knowledge that would be beneficial in their future careers (7.1 for private schools and 6.2 for public schools).

“When asked to rate their preparedness on a 0-10 scale in specific areas, private school students average a rating of at least 0.7 points higher than their public school peers in every category,” the report says. “While these are not huge differences, they do point to private high schools doing a slightly better job preparing their students for life in college and beyond.”

To read the entire report, go here.

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