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Freshman GPA reflects quality of high school, study suggests

A new report suggests that the quality of a student’s high school education is likely to affect his or her performance in college, and Boston University students agree that high school is key to preparing students for higher education.

The study, conducted by researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research, examines the relationship between high school quality and academic performance in early college years using data from the University of Texas at Austin.

“High schools can prepare students through a curriculum that follows the structure of a college curriculum or through assignments that mimic the college type of assignments,” said Noah Lattanzi, a College of Arts and Sciences sophomore.

Of the students who participated in the study, those who attended a high school with a higher socioeconomic status, more experienced teachers, a greater college preparation system and less budget pressure from students in need tended to have higher grade point averages during their freshman year of college.

Marissa Conti, a Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Services sophomore, said while high school performance may be an indicator of college performance, students entering BU may find making higher grades particularly challenging.

“People who work hard in high school usually get into more competitive colleges and they usually keep up with that,” she said. “BU is really hard academically though. It’s harder to do well at BU than it is to get into BU … Not every high school student going to college is like that — BU is just harder than other schools.”

CAS junior Renee Gaillard said high school and college are difficult to compare because they are so different, so high school quality may not be the best indicator for college performance.

“The coursework in college wasn’t anything like high school,” she said. “I went in expecting that I was going to get As again, and then I got my first C on a paper, and I realized [college] has a different kind of standard with different expectations. It definitely was a bit of a shock.”

Assignments are more manageable in high school, Gaillard said.

“The homework was very simple, just things like ‘learn these key terms,’” she said. “When you were preparing for tests, they told you exactly what would be on them. The teachers you had for pretty much all four years so you really go to know them, compared to professors in college who change every semester.”

Sydney Zeldis, a CAS sophomore, said while her high school prepared her for the amount of work she would have in college, it did not prepare her for competition at the college level.

“College is a whole other realm,” she said. “You’re competing against other people … I was prepared for the workload. I wasn’t prepared for curves that would ruin my grade or make my grade go lower … You’re fighting against everybody in your classes for an A.”

SAR sophomore Antonia Calcaterra said while high school performance is sometimes an indicator for college performance, some students don’t acquire the study schools they need in high school.

“I know a lot of friends who did really well in high school but didn’t learn how to study in high school because it was so easy for them,” she said. “They didn’t know how to prepare for the college workload.”

While a student may attend a prestigious or notable high school, the most important determinant of success in college is work ethic, Lattanzi said.

“If a student has a good work ethic, that carries over regardless of the [quality of the] high school,” he said. “If they’re invested in their high school work, they’ll probably be invested in college, too. If the student is talented and interested in learning, there’s always ways they could go to professors more and seek out things that will help them get better grades.”

Taryn Ottaunick contributed to the reporting of this article.

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