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How to Get Gifted Students Ready for College Life

By Mayflor Markusic

Many people assume that gifted and exceptional students will find college easy. The reality is different. These special students also face numerous challenges that if not adequately prepared by teachers, gifted students would face insurmountable frustrations and would drop out of school.

The Challenges

The challenges that gifted and talented students face when they enter college can be either or both academic and social. Academic challenges occur less often than social challenges because the majority of gifted students have high intelligence quotients and have great motivation to perform well in the classroom. But there have been gifted students that fall behind because of academic challenges that they could not overcome.

One typical situation is when the gifted student never faced a real academic challenge during elementary and high school. Every subject has been easy that the student may not have developed study skills. When this student enters the more exacting and rigorous demands of college, he or she does not have the study skills nor the study habits that can be used to tackle difficult college subjects. As a result, the student would either choose an easier course or quit school.

The development of study skills and habits is not a problem for gifted and talented students who are enrolled in special schools. But they do face social problems when they enter college. The majority of the social problems is related to age. These brilliant students are usually two or more years younger than their college peers, making it difficult for the gifted students to interact socially, much less fit in.

And finally, there are socially adept gifted students who are not only brilliant academically but are also active leaders in various school organizations. After classes, they are involved in a whirlwind of extracurricular activities in which their parents or guardians would chauffeur them from one event to another. Unfortunately, this network of support from family members is unlikely available in college. The gifted student has to take time to cook or get meals, do the laundry, and make the dorm room decent.

Preparation Tips

Why do gifted students quit school? The lack of preparation is one of the reasons why gifted students give up college. They have not anticipated and are not even aware of these challenges in college. To make the transition to college easier and less traumatic for gifted and talented students, the teachers should help them reach a certain level of social and emotional maturity as well as acquire organizational skills. Together with the school counselor, the teacher can help the student address specific issues and challenges that will come up in college. Here are general preparation tips that will serve as guide.

  • Set realistic goals and expectations - The goal of becoming the best surgeon in the world might be possible but it could not be considered realistic. It will also place too much pressure on the gifted student. In setting realistic goals, the student can draw up a yearly plan under the guidance of the teacher. This way, the student can avoid enrolling in too many subjects.

  • Investigate the potential schools - This will open the student's eyes to the practical aspect of going to college. Find out about the school services offered and the location of canteens and restaurants. The students need to realize that there are other things they need to do besides study. Find out about the campus security. This will also alleviate the fears of parents.

  • Provide college level academic challenges - This will provide the gifted students an idea of the difficulty of college work that they will face.

Source: information from author experience