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Arizbeth Cortez felt confident college would be just like high school and she’d ace all her classes. After all, she’d never received anything less than an A grade at Denver’s Bruce Randolph School.
On her first exam at the University of Northern Colorado, however, she got a B. It brought a flood of tears and worries that she didn’t have the skills to meet her expectations.
“I ended up with anxiety about exams because I didn’t know how to study very well,” said Cortez, 18, a freshman.
The challenge of college can be an eye opening experience for even the brightest student. But Cortez realized she didn’t know how to manage her time or know how to prepare for a test.
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They’re skills she missed while attending high school during the pandemic, when she took her classes virtually for more than a year, rarely had homework, and most of the tests she took were open book. Most of her junior year was spent learning from home and she saw her mom and sister more than peers and teachers.
Cortez isn’t alone in her first semester struggles, which at times left her rattled. College leaders have encountered many more freshmen like her this year — students who don’t have the base of skills that will make them successful in college. And they all agree about the cause: nearly five high school semesters upended by the pandemic, and less accountability placed on students because of it.
Educators say students entering college this fall have fewer study and test-taking skills, such as simple tactics like preparing note cards or the value of study groups. They’re less communicative with professors when they need extra time to complete assignments, have difficulty staying on task, and have fewer coping mechanisms when adversity strikes.
University of Northern Colorado administrators say they have had to double down on efforts to help freshmen succeed, teaching basic skills to help them adjust and navigate the new environment.