From: Patrick Douglas Crispen
Subject: TOURBUS -- 27 APR 03 -- UNDERSTANDING UNIVERSITY SUCCESS
Howdy, y'all, and greetings once again from deep behind the orange curtain in beautiful Irvine, California, where we pillage, we plunder, we rifle, and loot -- dink up, me 'earties, yo ho! :P
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On with the show ...
As a recently retired professional college student, I have a question for you: what do you need to know in order to be successful in college?
One might be tempted to answer my question with squishy answers like "a strong foundation in math, science, and literature" or "a thirst for knowledge" -- answers that may sound good but that provide precious little guidance or information.
And I'm not talking about what you need to know in order to pass the SAT or ACT. Your local bookstore is overflowing with books that will help you prepare for the college entrance exams. And I am also not talking about what you need to know in order to succeed in college interviews.
No, what I'm asking is what *SPECIFIC* skills and knowledge do you need in order to be a successful college student?
Tough question, isn't it? But it is an essential one to ask because most high school students have no clue what college is like and most college freshmen are shocked and surprised by the knowledge and skills that university professors expect of them.
So, back in 1998 the Association of American Universities [with the assistance of the Pew Charitable Trusts] decided to identify what students need to know and be able to do in order to succeed in entry- level university courses at America's research universities.
Five years later, the results have been published in a free, 82 page booklet and accompanying CD-ROM titled "Understanding University Success." Included in the booklet is something called "Knowledge and Skills for University Success" [KSUS],
a comprehensive listing of what university faculty expect from students in entry-level courses. KSUS is divided into six academic disciplines: English, mathematics, natural sciences, social sciences, second languages and the arts ...
... To ensure that the material is widely available, the project is mailing the ... booklet and accompanying CD-ROM to each of the nearly 20,000 public high schools in the nation, as well as to state education departments and university leaders.
The College Board has licensed Knowledge and Skills for University Success to be used as a foundational element in the development of College Board examinations, including the SAT, PSAT and Advanced Placement exams.
[all quotes shamelessly stolen -- out of order -- from http://www.s4s.org/05_pressroom/pdf/S4S_Press_Release.pdf]
In short, Understanding University Success is a pretty important little booklet. So, how can you get *YOUR* hands on a copy? Easy! Just point your Web browser to
You can download the entire booklet for free in Adobe Acrobat PDF format or order the booklet (US$15.00), CD-ROM (US$5.00), or both (US$18.00). If you do decide to download the booklet, I have two small warnings:
1. The booklet is 4.2 Mb so it will take about 10 minutes to download over a 56K modem and 20 minutes over a 28.8 modem.
2. The downloading process is a little convoluted -- it requires two pop-up windows and then you can't really right-click and save as. Your best bet is to either get the zipped version or, after the PDF file has loaded, click on the floppy icon in Acrobat (under your browser's address bar) to save the PDF file to your hard drive.
If all this sounds too complicated, you can always read the booklet online at
No matter what way you use to get the booklet, note that each subject area has two subsections:
1. Foundations -- a macro-level look at the skills and attributes of successful students in this subject area.
2. Standards -- specific subject area knowledge and skill sets
The standards lists for each of the six subject areas are probably the most important educational documents to be produced in a long while. These lists show the skills and knowledge that America's research universities expect from entering freshmen. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I wouldn't be surprised if, over the next couple of years, most states begin to align their K-12 curriculum to align with the standards in this booklet.
By the way, one thing that the CD offers that the booklet doesn't is
a library of more than 250 work samples and syllabi that illustrate the quality of work that AAU-university professors expect of freshmen in entry-level courses.
According to David Conley, Director of the Standards for Success project,
We have collected real-life examples of student work from freshman classes along with course syllabi, assignments, lab exercises and tests ... Teachers can use the course syllabi, assignments, and student work samples as reference points as they devise their own curricula.
Cool, huh? But what if you donít want to cough up the five bucks for the CD-ROM? Well, you can download the university work samples for each subject area for free at
Just choose the subject area on the left side of the page. You'll still have to navigate the two pop-up windows, though. And if you thought the booklet was big, wait until you try to download the work samples. [The English work sample book has 480 pages and weighs in at a staggering 6.9 Mb.]
Big? Yes. Valuable? ABSOLUTELY!
If you or a loved one is headed to college any time soon, Understanding University Success is going to be a godsend if for no other reason than it answers the question I posed at the start of today's post: what do you need to know in order to be successful in college?
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That's it for today. Have a safe and happy week, and we'll talk again soon. :)