The University Model and Why it Works

Jessica White January 06, 2018 0

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When I went off to a private, liberal arts college at 19, I was required to take a course on study skills.


The university model of education requires students to do the majority of the learning on their own, and most don’t know how. They’ve spent four years spending 35 hours a week in a classroom where the teacher tells them what is important and what will be on the test. Then they go home and cram to remember that information long enough to pass.

Then they go to college and take 4-5 classes about 3 hours long. They think it will be a breeze (12-15 hours), but those courses are condensed. Instead of a year, they are learning the same amount of material in a semester. Professors don’t ‘teach’ the material, they use class time to reinforce what students studied on their own in textbooks and videos the prior week and answer questions to clarify understanding and show correlations between different pieces.

The university model shifts the responsibility for learning from the teacher to the student.

That’s why many first-year students fail out of at least one course. It is also why many high-schools pressure students to do MORE homework, even after 35 hours in the classroom. It's not to gain knowledge as much as to teach them to learn and work independently. That pressure comes at the cost of mental fatigue, anxiety, and less family time when the developing body and mind of teens need moral and emotional support to develop.

So why do we structure high school that way?

Because that’s how it has always been done. Change is scary. And there is no incentive to change since kids are adaptable and most transition to college with orientation courses. But high schools in the private sector are making the leap. Others, like Makarios, have been using a model of self-directed learning for decades and have found it a natural progression.

How do you spend less time and learn more?

Self-directed learning. Deciding what to learn and how to learn it is the core of any real education experience. Ask any teacher and they’ll tell you that you can repeat the same information over and over, show kids a dozen ways to learn it, but if they don’t want to, it won’t stick. Why? Because that’s how the brain is programmed. We filter billions of pieces of information every day, but only a small part of that is consciously and an even smaller part is stored in short-term or long-term memory.

At Makarios, all our students are self-directed from day one. They learn the skills of how to read, write, and think critically through their own unique interests. When they decide on a career/college path, mentors help them figure out what they need to study to reach that goal. That’s where the university model comes in. Instead of filling their school days with class after class, they focus on 2-4 subjects and learn them in a semester.


Those classes focus on the high school core subjects (English, Math, History, Science, Foreign Language) but are only two days a week. The rest of the school day is open for students to learn the material in other ways, do assignments, create projects, or rest their brains and let the information sink in while they do something less mentally taxing.

And because the school day isn’t filled, they can do all their coursework at school. Then go home, spend quality time with their family without the stress of homework. They can have conversations with their parents about what they’ve learned over dinner. They can get the proper sleep their growing brains need.

How do you fit 4 years of all the core classes in if they are only doing 4-8 a year?

The answer is — we don’t. Here, kids are free to take courses at any age. Most start around age 12. That gives them an extra two years. The other way they get more course work in is dual enrolling at the local community college (which uses the same model). They take a placement test and are offered courses appropriate for their aptitude and interests.

If they want to take something specific and, for example, need stronger math skills, then they can study those skills on our campus and retest the next semester. After about two years of dual enrollment, a student has the option to finish a certification program, pursue an associate’s degree or transfer to a four-year university. This allows them to skip the high school diploma or GED route all together and accelerate learning opportunities.


If they don’t want to go that route but want to create a traditional transcript required by their college of choice, we can do that, too. And having already been in the university model, their application and transition will be much smoother than 90% of kids attending a university. Even if they go straight into a career, the skills learned will help their ability to learn on the job without lots of hand-holding and instruction. It’s a win-win model all around.

Interested, want to learn more? Download our University-Model Enrollment Form.

For more information contact our Administrator of High School and Dual Credit-Donella Cecrle at 682-422-6886 or by email at

Self Directed Learning, College & Careers, university model

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