Middle Grades Students’ Conceptions of College after Four Days of College Life at St. John’s University
Mary Beth Schaefer, The School of Education, Department of Curriculum and Instruction; Research Collaborators and College Immersion Coordinators: Laura Burlacu and Jennifer Zweifler, Slide Show Creator: Anna Phan
This research study describes the learning experiences of middle grades students attending “College Immersion,” a program supported by St. John’s University and its New York chapter of the After-School All-Stars, funded by a 21st Century Community Learning Centers Grant. Recent research suggests that middle school is a pivotal time in students’ academic life (Balfanz,2009); in fact, 8th grade was found to be the most critical grade for college readiness and success (ACT, 2008). From February 21 until February 25, seventh and eighth grade students from 3 different high-need middle schools in Queens attended St. John’s University. Fifty students were invited, and 47 showed up every day from 9-3. They attended sample college lectures and experienced small, self-selected classes taught by St. John’s professors. This qualitative research study used surveys and interviews to help understand students’ perceptions and understandings of college life before and after participating in the program. Findings suggested that students who participated in the College Immersion program deepened their understanding of the kinds of work expected at the college level. Students felt more confident about doing well in college because they understood the physical layout of the campus and classrooms and became acquainted with professors. Most students began the program with a vague idea of what college life was like. After College Immersion, they developed a deeper and more realistic understanding of college. In interviews, many said they could now “see” themselves as college-bound students and talked about working harder in their current middle school classes and achieving “good grades” through “hard work” in high school.