There are differences in opinion when it comes to thinking about college in middle school. Some parents think it is too early, while others already have a college in mind for their middle school child. Some middle schools talk about college regularly, while others hardly mention college.
Is middle school too early to think about college? Absolutely not! While middle school students do not need to focus on the college they will be attending in the future, middle school students can definitely start preparing for college.
What can middle school students do now to plan for college?
- Take challenging classes. Middle school students should take classes that will challenge them academically. Students should take classes that challenge them, versus taking the easiest classes available. While most class offerings are the same for all students, a few are different. Although colleges probably will not see middle school classes or grades, the classes students take in middle school will lead to the class they take in high school. College officers will see high school classes and they want to see students challenging themselves academically.
- Math. If students are ready for the challenge, they should aim to take Algebra in middle school. Math is sequential and by starting early, students can continue taking advanced math classes in high school.
- Foreign Language. The majority of colleges require students to take a foreign language in high school. Taking a foreign language will give students a head start.
- Do well in classes. Students need to do their homework and study. If they need help, they should ask for help from teachers, parents and tutors. The classes and grades students receive in middle school have a direct correlation to the classes students will take in high school.
- Find enjoyable extracurricular activities. Students should take their time in middle school exploring the many extracurricular activities available and find what they truly enjoy. Colleges want to see students that are involved in meaningful activities. Students should find what they truly enjoy and dive in to the activity. By the time the student is in high school, they will be able to start taking on leadership roles in the activity.
- Search and apply for scholarships. A big misconception that students and parents have is that scholarships are not available for younger students. However, there are many scholarships for younger students. The easiest way to find out about scholarships is to sign-up with a scholarship website such as Fastweb. Once students provide some basic information about themselves, Fastweb will produce a list of scholarships that meet the student’s qualifications. In addition, as new scholarships are added to the database, students will be notified.
- Think about future careers. Middle school is not too early to start thinking about the future. Students do not need to narrow down on a particular path, but they can start thinking about what they like and dislike and start exploring the disciplines they enjoy. The earlier students start narrowing down the list, the earlier students can start exploring future possibilities by doing deeper research, talking to people in the professions and even interning or working in the future.
Middle school students can also start exploring colleges. While it can be easy to focus on one college, students should explore many different college options. Middle school students can do general college research by visiting college websites and even attending college fairs and visiting colleges. However, the focus during middle school should be doing general college preparation.
Middle school students who start college preparation early will be better prepared to conquer college preparation in college. By starting off strong, students are more likely to continue down the right path to college.
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