My mom always said that if she won the lottery, then she would send my sister and me to private school. I used to pray that she would never hit the jackpot and probability was definitely on my side because she never won an extraordinary amount of money. Unfortunately, for my mom, that meant no private school for her children. However, as a product of high school public education, I can attest to the six ways that public high school prepares you for college.
1. Long lunch lines, no big deal.
My classic high school cafeteria joke is that a 30 minute lunch is only 15 minutes after fighting through the lunch line for half of the period. It turns out the same rule applies in college during the crazy lunch rush hour. It does not matter whether I go off-campus for lunch or stay on-campus — everyone is yearning for food. The long lines are unavoidable and after four years of elbowing through high school students, it's no big deal.
2. Speaking of lunch...
I am the queen of multitasking. My high school's segmented lunch period taught me how to eat, use the bathroom and socialize with friends in 30 minutes or less. The idea of a chaotic and fast-paced lunch is commonplace to me and something I did not have to adjust to when I started college. I watched my college peers who were accustomed to the orderly lunch period of private schools completely forget to eat lunch or drink a venti frappuccino for lunch because they could not find time. Similarly, I've watched previously home-schooled students agonize over the long lines for microwaves to heat their pre-packaged lunches. I have bypassed these struggles because public high school taught me how to maximize my lunch period.
3. Large classroom sizes.
Allow me to issue the following disclaimer: I adamantly oppose large classroom sizes. I learn better in small classroom environments in which the teacher has the opportunity to understand the needs of each students on a deep and meaningful level. However, the politics of public education pushes for large classroom sizes. Still, this shortcoming taught me how to stand out in a large group of students. For example, in a Black Student Union meeting, I do not need to shout over other students to get my point across and I understand when I need to step back and allow other students to talk. Yet, when it is my turn to speak, I know how to effectively make my point. While there are better ways to learn discourse techniques, I learned via large classroom sizes. For public high school students, this is one way to turn a negative into a positive and better prepare you for the larger college atmosphere.
4. Standardized testing .
Beyond the typical AP test, SAT or ACT, public school students are forced to endure county and state tests to measure performance standards. Unlike certain private schools, there is no opting out of excessive testing and Scantron sheets become a way of life. As taxing as this was in public school, it certainly prepares college students for dead week (more commonly known as finals week). All-nighters are old news. Study habits are set in place. Procrastination is expected. While hectic testing weeks are stressful, it is all too familiar for public high school students.
5. Required classes (that have nothing to do with your major or interests).
The biology majors in my public speaking class could not see the sense in taking a required communications class for their major. Likewise, my close friend found algebra irrelevant towards her psychology major. The common complaint between these students was that they were paying for a class they had no interest in and had little relevance to their degree. Well, to that I say, "Welcome to the struggles of public high school." I had to take physics because it was a graduation requirement for my school district and I have no interest in using thermodynamics with an English education degree. Nevertheless, these required classes prepared me for the degree requirements of my college career. I learned to search for meaning in every class I take, whether it is through a possible teacher recommendation or simply a new way of thinking.
6. Seeking opportunities.
Public high schools are usually not the first stop for influential community leaders. If I wanted to get the face of the mayor or meet with business leaders, I had to learn how to connect with members of my community. I joined clubs like Future Business Leaders of America that taught me how to contact city council members through email and the importance of an elevator pitch. I also took up a middle school internship and gained an important teacher contact (thanks for the job reference, Ms. Bodrick). Seeking opportunities is one of the greatest tidbits I learned from attending a public high school that helped me prepare for the networking culture of college.
I am a student who went from 13 years of public education to committing to four years of private higher education. Initially, I was worried. I thought former private school students or charter school students would have a wild advantage over me. However, after conquering my freshman year of college, I realize the ways that public high school prepares students for college in ways private schools, charter schools and home-schools cannot.
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