President Obama has made it clear that he hopes one of the staples of his administration is an increase in college completion rates. By 2020, he hopes that the U.S. will regain its position as the country in the world with the greatest proportion of college graduates. However, recent budget cuts to financial aid and educational programs leaves plenty of room for doubt in President Obama’s goal. And now, it seems there is another setback. Yesterday, the ACT revealed its findings for college and career readiness in its annual report. In a press release, the ACT stated that while 25% of students in the class of 2011 who took the test met each readiness benchmark in all areas of testing (English, writing, math and science), 28% of test takers failed to meet all four. This percentage is unchanged from last year, according to ACT. Get expert advice on beneficial test prep. An article in TIME did note that many researchers believe that standardized tests are not an accurate measurement of college and career readiness. In fact, the article referenced a recent study which found “the science and reading portions of the test have "little or no" ability to help colleges predict whether applicants will succeed.” However, the same study revealed that “the two remaining sections, English and math, were "highly predictive" of college success.” Steps You Can Take to Be College Ready These alarming figures have teachers, parents and students wondering what they can do to be better prepared for college. While the ACT has come up with a helpful strategy for teachers, we’ve highlighted steps we think Fastwebbers can take to improve their grades in high school and better prepare them for the material they will encounter in college. Stay focused. Don’t slack. Whether you’ve just started high school or are finishing up your last year, it goes without saying that staying focused in class and on homework assignments is paramount to college success. But so many high school students allow themselves to slack off at different points during the year. Oftentimes, students let athletic practices, band or choir rehearsals and senioritis deter them from academic goals. Find ways to keep yourself motivated. In class, break yourself of doodling, day dreaming and other distractions. The best way to do this is to put all of your energy into forming great, detailed notes. At home, create a nurturing environment with an inspiration board or a classical music playlist on your iPod. Reward yourself after you’re finished with homework with an episode of Glee or Modern Family, a special treat like ice cream or 30 minutes of undivided attention to Hunger Games. Take advantage of school tutoring services. So often, students use tutoring resources as a last resort when their Algebra or Biology grade is teetering on that fine line between a C or D in the class. But tutoring can be so much more than that. It can provide you with individual attention that might be missing from your classroom setting. Through these sessions, straight A students and D students alike can ask questions about material that was confusing when presented during class. You’ll receive feedback on what you did wrong on the test or homework assignments. And this time provides more practice for thinking analytically in general, one of the main staples of college readiness. Start scholarship applications today -- see your matches! Read, Read, Read. While students are inundated with reading assignments these days, it’s important to go above and beyond on this skill. You may be thinking, “Reading is a skill?” Yes – and it’s probably the most important skill you can develop in order to be ready for college. Though you read books and are tested on the material for Literature courses, reading comprehension plays a huge role in every subject—from understanding the movements of World History to assessing just what that Calculus question is asking you to determine through equation after equation. Great reading comprehension is a requirement for every college subject and like practice makes perfect, the more you read the more you hone your skill. Additionally, reading can provide you with key skills in writing. Don’t just grasp the story as you’re reading. Look at vocabulary, sentence structure and punctuation usage. Search for words in the dictionary that you don’t know for future use in your own essays and on tests and mimic the way authors and editors design and capitalize on proper phrasing. Keep a daily journal. Or a diary. Or just a general notation of your thoughts. Whatever you want to call it. This "journal" can be a reflection of everything you did that day or short stories and poems. The point is that it can help you grow as a writer. Here, you can implement what you’ve learned in your English courses as well as in your daily reading.