What Are Online College Prep Courses and How Can They Help Students Get on the Right Track Heading into College?

Posted on August 31, 2023

Posted on August 31, 2023

High school students have a lot of work ahead of them to gain admission into college and prepare themselves for the workforce. Enrolling in a college prep program can help you get ready for college and learn the ins and outs of college applications and attendance.

If you’re planning on attending college after high school – or you have a child exploring college options – online college prep courses offer valuable real-world insights to ensure success.

What Is College Prep?

College prep can mean different things at different institutions, but they’re generally classes that prepare you for future education as a college student. Some may focus on practical knowledge for college like managing college applications or understanding financial aid and loans. 

Others may prepare you for the rigor of college with more challenging course work to give you a taste of what’s expected of a college student. These often focus on the core subjects that high school students are supposed to grasp before graduation: English, math, science, and social studies.

Though often grouped together, college prep courses differ from advanced placement (AP) courses. AP courses are courses you can take to earn college credit in high school, which are instructed at a college level and quite challenging. College prep courses can be equally rigorous, but they may not offer college credit.

What Do Online College Prep Courses Cover?

College prep courses that focus on college readiness, rather than core subjects, give students practical knowledge about colleges, financial aid, and the experiences they may have in college. The goal behind these courses is to prepare students for college in high school and set them up for success. 

Some of the topics covered may include:

Financial Preparation

College prep covers key aspects of securing financial aid for college, including completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and understanding student loans. This is crucial knowledge to help make important financial decisions while earning your degree.

Learning to Work Collaboratively and Independently

Taking college-level courses in high school expands the learning experience beyond rote memorization. The college experience is designed to encourage critical thinking and a thorough examination of subjects for deep knowledge, which occurs in part because of collaborative discussion. College prep courses promote deeper learning and nurture a sense of a learning community.

They also foster independent learning, however, particularly with self-paced online courses. While support from peers and professors is available, college students have to manage their time and learn to work on their own to a certain degree, which is often a shock compared to the constant oversight of high school learning. 

Identifying Strategies to Succeed in Higher Education

The college experience can be challenging, especially if you’re trying to balance school and other responsibilities like work or extracurricular activities. College prep courses help you identify strategies to make the most of the college experience, including:

  • Creating goals and sticking to them

  • Attending class and completing assignments on time 

  • Note and test taking skills

  • Assessing your learning style and using that knowledge to develop deep learning

  • Trying new things and gaining new experiences

  • Managing time with intention 

  • Asking for help when you need it

While some skills, such as studying and note taking, can be developed in high school, college prep courses take this to the next level to prepare for the rigor of the college educational experience.

Developing Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is the moral code or ethical policy of academia. Virtually every higher learning institution has a code of conduct for students that includes expectations for academic integrity. If a student falters, they can face more serious consequences than in high school. 

This aspect of learning covers more than just dishonest practices like copying information from other students, plagiarizing, or paying for course work. It also refers to engaging with the learning experience and committing to work that is well done and focused on a good purpose to develop character that will extend far beyond the college experience.

Planning the College Experience

If you’re like many high school students, you may not be sure what you want to do after high school. College may be on the radar, but where do you want to go? Do you have a major or subject area in mind? Do you know what career you wish to pursue?

You don’t have to have all the answers right now, but having an idea can help you get off to a strong start in college. A college prep course can help you understand more about the academic perspective and make a plan for your future. 

When Should I Take College Prep Courses?

It’s recommended to begin engaging in active college preparation in your junior year of high school. That year is spent focusing on the skills and activities you’ll want to highlight on your applications – including college prep courses.

If you’re in or coming up on junior year, it’s best to start as early as possible. Taking a college prep course puts you in a strong position to start making a college plan, seeking out schools, and developing the skills you will need for the college experience.

Where Can I Take College Prep Courses? 

Some high schools offer college prep courses as part of the optional curriculum. If yours doesn’t offer these courses, you can take summer college prep programs at nearby schools or online.

Sophia Learning also offers a college readiness course that covers the essentials for the college experience, including filling out applications, understanding financial aid, and developing learning success strategies – possibly for college credit!

Get a Strong Start to Your College Experience

College prep courses are a valuable addition to your high school curriculum to prepare you not only for college learning but the application and planning processes. If you want to get a jump on college with self-paced online learning, check out Sophia’s college readiness course and other course offerings designed to transfer!

Category: Student Success

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