Preparing High School Seniors for College Curriculum, Both in Online and Traditional Settings

It’s a hard time being a high school senior getting ready for college. Student debt levels are at an all-time high, the job market continues to shift in uncertain directions, and universities all across the country are still recovering from the pandemic.

As a guidance counselor, your job is to help prepare your seniors for college, be they getting ready for online classes, traditional schooling, or some hybridized combination of both. In this article, we take a look at some of the most important issues weighing on the minds of incoming college freshmen.

How Things Are Different

Of course, counselors have been getting kids ready to go to college forever. It’s the job, right? How have things changed in the last few years to reshape that responsibility?

The biggest change has likely been the proliferation of remote learning. Where once online school was obscure and even stigmatized, it is now mainstream. Many students who attend in-person universities will wind up taking at least a few online classes during their time in college.

While the learning process remains much the same in remote classes, there are unique responsibilities that your students should prepare themselves for.

  • Self-guided: A good deal of remote work is self-guided. Of course, to be successful at college, students do need to be able to take initiative. This need is simply greater in the online setting. Often, classes will simply ask their students to complete a certain amount of work each week. They may not have any zoom classes at all, putting a bigger premium on being able to motivate yourself to work.
  • A different way of learning: Kids should also understand that learning on a screen is biologically different than learning in person. The human mind processes screen-based learning differently. Study after study shows that the human mind places a lower priority on facts that are presented on a screen. The why of it isn’t entirely understood yet, but we do know that learning effectively online requires a heightened degree of effort.

Fortunately, most high school seniors will be at least somewhat acquainted with the concept of remote learning thanks to the pandemic. However, it’s still a good idea to go over their new responsibilities with them. Self-guided learning in high school is much different than it is in college. Without the structure of home life as an anchor, many new college students struggle to establish the firm study habits that are required for college success.


The average college student graduates without even knowing how to make a budget. Unacceptable as that is, it’s also indicative of another problem— high school students are going into an independent setting with no knowledge of money.

Not only will an understanding of finance help them navigate the college world, but it may also inform their decision of where they go. It’s strange to think that kids make one of the biggest financial choices of their lives— short only of buying a house— without even realizing it. A little bit of financial wisdom can be enormously beneficial as they weigh their student loan options.

Of course, there is only so much that can be done at this stage in the game. A senior poised to graduate won’t become an expert in finance overnight. More and more high schools across the country are emphasizing financial instruction for underclasspeople for precisely that reason.

Work Gets Harder

College can be a big culture shock for freshmen. It’s not just that they are away from home for the first time. It’s the work itself. In high school, class difficulty increases very gradually and sometimes not at all. It’s not like that in college.

Universities have high standards and the teachers, though typically accommodating, are often disinclined to make special efforts to help students out. It is an adult world, filled with adult expectations. Kids who don’t know how to buckle down and study may have a tough time.

College-level classes are a great way to get students ready for university life while still enjoying the comforts of home. While not every student is eligible to take these classes in high school, it is a good opportunity to get a taste of university expectations while also saving a pretty decent chunk of money. Consider encouraging eligible students to take advantage of every college-level class that they can.

Encourage Extracurricular Involvement

Extracurriculars are a good way to provide high school students with an extra degree of responsibility. This can be a useful asset in helping them prepare for the unique demands of university life.

Extracurriculars also have the unique benefit of helping students stand out in their applications. While senior year may be a little late to start padding out a resume, every little bit counts, so encourage your students to get involved in things they are interested in.


Being a freshman in college has never been easy. However, as the world of education continues to shift into a new phase— an age of digitalization— kids currently in the educational system are being uniquely exposed to the influx of technology in the classroom.

While Covid did accelerate the digitalization of school work, it is safe to say that the world of education remains in a state of growing pains.

Of course, kids are tough. With your help, they will be able to prepare for school and enjoy a fruitful university experience.