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High School to College: Resources for Librarians and Teachers: Skills for College

This guide is designed to provide practical and useful information for librarians and teachers interested in preparing high school students academically for college courses and research.

Information Literacy Skills Checklist

Consult the Information Literacy Skills Checklist for high school seniors created by Patricia Owen and Megan Oakleaf (OELMA 2008 ) to help students evaluate their own progress.

Sample College Assignments

Sample research paper assignments from a first year college writing course all students must successfully complete to graduate.  

College Professors' Expectations

Question: Within the context of writing, researching, and information literacy, what strengths and weaknesses do your first year students come to you with?  Or  think about it this  way . . . what writing and information literacy skills do you expect your first year writing students to have the first day of the semester?  

Responses from First Year Writing Faculty at Cleveland State University

"What I often see in my students: an unwillingness to read carefully, a general lack of curiosity, and an approach to research that goes like this: The first three hits on Google (Wikipedia usually front and center)."

"What I would like to see from my students: the willingness to read carefully and deeply, a general curiosity about the world, an approach to research that goes like this: 'I am, as a researcher, essentially a detective.  I will do what it takes, track down every lead, follow every clue, until I solve the case.'"

"They fail to take time to plan their work."

"They do not realize that (nor are they invested in) the real 'work' of writing happens in revision, editing, and proofreading, which is also a function of the problem noted above."

"Most do not read nor write enough before they come to college."

"I would say that, generally, what I see most lacking in students are critical literacy skills. I find that students, in both reading and writing, do not process information in a critical, analytical way.  Students seem to have trouble identifying the most significant ideas in a text they are reading and, furthermore, addressing those ideas in relation to other texts, their own experiences, or their understanding of both the subject matter and the world at large.  This lack of analysis is then manifested in their writing.  Students rely much too heavily on summary (not always accurately) with some nods to personal response—a kind of 'Author X said this and I agree.' Although this is valid place to start, this kind of response forgoes in deeper, critical analysis.  I think this connects to what I see generally as a limited experience with close reading and writing in our students." 

"I do find that students at all levels are open to learning what they are expected to know to read and write at the college-level.  Most students try very hard to move forward with their reading and writing in a very short time. For many, this first encounter with critical literacy is a challenge that at first provides uneven results. But those results do suggest that students are grappling with difficult material that will have a lasting effect on their ability to continue to do so outside the writing classroom."

"Most college students are familiar with search engines and can look up a multitude of information quickly and easily."

"Most college students are not good at recognizing research-worthy sources from non-research worthy sources."

"I expect  freshman enrolled in English Composition to be able to evaluate the worth of web sites and be able to determine which ones are useful  and for what reasons." 

"College freshmen should be able to appreciate literature; I expect them to have read various types of literature (the literary cannons) so that  they can formulate their own opinions about themselves , others, and the world around them." 

"In regards to writing, I expect first year college students to know grammar. They should be able to write a well developed paragraph. I would like them to understand the power of transitions and use them in their writing. I expect them to understand sentence structure and how a writer acquires his/her own writing  style.  They should have the ability to use Microsoft Word as a  tool  for the writing process."

"College freshmen should not expect to be spoon fed in an English class.  They must rise up to the standards set by the academic community and realize that they have a part in their learning process, and throw away the mind set that 'I did my work, so I should get  an “A".'   

Information Literacy Skills for First Year College Students

Limited time? Start by focusing on helping students master these skills:

  • Understanding ambiguous assignments
  • Selecting an appropriate topic for academic research
  • Narrowing a research topic
  • Brainstorming keywords and synonyms
  • Using library research tools (catalog, research databases) to locate sources
  • Evaluating sources and select the most appropriate
  • Distinguishing between primary/secondary and popular/scholarly sources
  • Determining if a source is fact or opinion
  • Recognizing and avoiding plagiarism; using proper citing techniques
  • Tackling time management by creating a research plan

College Students Speak Out

In this video creaetd by created by High School to College (HS2C) college students speak out about how college differs from their high school experiences. HS2C is a collaborative network of Western New York high school and college librarians formed to investigate ways to ensure the continuation of information literacy skills between high school and college. (runtime 15 minutes)