June 21, 2000 2 min read

Skipping Classes: Many high school students say they plan to attend college but admit that they intend to skip some of the challenging classes needed to prepare them, a report says.

Four of five sophomores who participated in the PLAN Program, which includes a college-preparatory exam similar to the ACT, reported that they would attend college directly after graduating from high school. PLAN was designed by the exam’s Iowa City, Iowa-based developer, ACT Inc.

But more than 20 percent of the students bound for four-year institutions, and nearly 40 percent of those headed for two-year schools, indicated that they would not take all the courses the test-maker deems necessary to prepare for college-level work, according to “PLAN National Profile Report,” the ACT study released this month.

“Students don’t always think about what they need to do in the short term to accomplish long-term goals,” said Donald J. Carstensen, the vice president for educational services for ACT Inc. “If they don’t take the courses, it’s likely they’ll have to entertain the prospect of doing remedial activities.”

Students who are preparing to attend a four-year college need to take four years of English and three years of mathematics, social studies, and science, the report says.

“Research consistently shows that students who take the core curriculum have a much greater likelihood of success in college than students who do not,” it says. “They achieve higher average scores on their college-entrance tests, do better in their freshman classes, and are more likely to persist to a degree.”

Students from low-income families are more likely than their better-off peers to have high goals but a misunderstanding of what it takes to achieve them, said Jacqueline E. King, the director of federal-policy analysis for the American Council on Education, a Washington-based group that represents colleges and universities nationwide.

Many poor students and their families simply haven’t had experience with the college-search process and don’t know what type of preparation is needed, Ms. King said.

The report sees hope for changing students’ paths, however. For example,75 percent of the respondents said they needed help in choosing a college, while 64 percent said they wanted help deciding on a career.

Mr. Carstensen said he hopes that students will get the help they need from their parents and informed guidance counselors.

The report is available for free by calling the ACT at (319) 337-1028.

—Julie Blair

A version of this article appeared in the June 21, 2000 edition of Education Week