When students write their final research paper at the end of the class, they use the same approach as my college juniors and seniors: the outline, the topic, the analysis, and the presentation. Most high school students haven’t written a 20-page paper before, and finishing one shows them that they’re capable of sticking with a long research undertaking that will take multiple revisions and modifications. It’s a benefit in terms of experience, and also serves as a writing sample that they can include in their college application packet.

3. Turn class into a conversation
Today’s technology is sufficiently advanced that my online class is comparable to being in a seminar room with four students. I’ve found that it can be more conversational and interactive than lecturing. A physical classroom can create a divide—the professor at the podium and the students in their seats. Online, the professor is leading the conversation, but everyone is more or less equal, which prepares students for the more active role they’re often asked to play in college classes.

4. Integrate different points of view
My classes introduce students to college-level work, and they also introduce Rice as a university to these students. We’re a top 20 school, but we aren’t as well-known as schools like Harvard or Yale.

The classes have also been helpful in bridging the gaps in mindsets between different cultures and systems. My cohorts have included a good number of Chinese students. Given that the worldviews of China and the United States are very different, it can be good for U.S. citizens to see things from a Chinese point of view. Even if we don’t agree, it’s still good for American students and educators to understand where they’re coming from.

5) Keep the mentoring ongoing
If any of my high school students chose to attend Rice, I would certainly continue a relationship with them, especially if they were in social science and public policy. But even if they weren’t in my field, I would still keep an informal connection. Mentorship, especially during students’ first year, can be an enormous help in navigating the bureaucracy.

I’m preparing high school students for the kind of research work they will conduct at distinguished colleges and universities. It’s a natural extension for me to want to help them get into their college of choice. Most of the students send me emails when they have been accepted, and those are emails that always bring a smile to my face.

About the Author:

Mark P. Jones is the Joseph D. Jamail Chair in Latin American studies, a professor of political science, the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy’s Fellow in Political Science, and the director of the Master of Global Affairs Program at Rice University.


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