College planning can actually begin in middle school. The focus for middle school students is different than those in high school and can be extremely valuable for a student's success. Seventh and eighth grades are the best time to prepare a student for the college planning process by developing study skills and personal aspirations. Here are some tips for parents of middle school students:
1. Establish good study habits
Middle school is the perfect time to teach time-management, organizational and study skills. Help your student develop a homework and study routine which they follow everyday after school. Establish a place to study in the home where the student can work without distractions. Make sure the student has all the materials needed to complete their assignments. Help the student create a system of organizing their work with 3-ring binders, folder, drawers and even folders on their computer.
3. Read Every Single Day
Encourage your middle school student to read everyday. Reading strengthens a student's verbal, writing and critical thinking abilities. Reading is great preparation for the SAT and ACT tests they will take later on as well as it will prepare them to read better when they encounter high school reading assignments. Almost anything a seventh and eighth grader reads - from comic books and graphic novels to non-fiction books and blogs - will improve their vocabulary, introduce new ideas and develop critical thinking skills.
2. Explore Extracurricular Activities
Middle school is a great time for students to try new things and determine what activities they enjoy most. Students should try different volunteer opportunities, talk to different people about their careers, and explore sports, hobbies and interests. If a student enters high school committed to an activity or with a career goal in mind, it will be much easier to for them to focus on developing the necessary skills and resume during their four years of high school. On their college applications, students will need to show depth and leadership in at least one or two extracurricular areas that they find meaningful.
4. Choose Challenging Courses
The more students challenge themselves in middle school, the easier high school will be, and the more opportunities a student will have to take advanced classes. Many middle schools offer high school courses in science, math and foreign language. These higher level courses are great opportunties for middle school students to advance and they will be able to include the courses on their college application.
Middle school is a good time for students to seek out extra help and tutoring if they are not doing well in a particular academic area. Students who can improve their academic performance in middle school will be positioned to earn better grades in high school.