Why Do I Need to Take Remedial Classes in College?

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According to a USA Today article published last September, an estimated 43% of community college students and 29% of four-year university students were required to enroll in some sort of remedial education course. This is definitely in keeping with what I observed as a community college academic adviser.

Maybe you’ve taken your college assessment tests and were told that you’ll need to take a remedial course, also referred to as preparatory or developmental coursework. No matter what it’s called, you may be confused as to the reasons for such requirements, especially if you were a good student in high school. Let’s take a look at some of the possible reasons.

High School Was Too Easy

Let’s face it. Some high schools do not place stringent requirements on their students. While there are government regulations in place that are supposed to monitor the educational system, many schools have simply modified their coursework or their recommendations to students in order to comply with or get around such regulations. Perhaps you were advised to take an easier math and never received the necessary skills to pass a college Algebra course.

You’ve Forgotten Some Things

This is another possibility. Maybe you took advanced math courses, but it’s been a while since you had that Algebra course. I give this as an example because it’s the scenario I saw often. Algebra concepts are not something we use on a regular basis, so it’s very easy to forget them. You don’t want to take a college level Algebra course if you can’t remember the basics. I recommend either brushing up on your beginning concepts and retaking the placement test or simply enrolling in the prep class to be sure that you have a solid foundation. The latter is especially true if you’re in a demanding major with lots of math and science coursework or if a high grade point average is required for your intended major.

You Lack Certain Skills

Many students I worked with would test into a developmental Reading or English class. A common reason behind this is a lack of strong reading comprehension skills. That doesn’t mean you’re not smart. But you probably would benefit greatly from taking a preparatory reading course in order to strengthen these skills. This will be one of the best things you can do for your college career, as all of your coursework will rely heavily on textbook reading.

You may also lack solid study or time management skills. This recent USA Today article demonstrates the advantage of enrolling in a study skills or college success course along with remedial coursework. In this type of class, you’ll learn lots of tricks and tips for improving your study skills and increasing your chance of obtaining good grades.

So don’t stress out if you need to take some remedial classes. I promise it’s not a reflection on the kind of student you can be, and these courses will give you the tools you need to succeed.


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