Today we’re talking about middle school.  The perfect time to start college planning! Starting the process now, before high school will make the process easier.  There is less pressure and the more time you have to prepare for the admissions process, the better.


In middle school, the focus is different than it will be in high school.  Unless a student is taking high school level classes in middle school, grades do not appear on the college application.  So this is the best time to make mistakes and learn from them. During seventh and eighth grades, students should be setting themselves up to have the strongest possible start in high school.


To accomplish this, students and their parents should:


  1. Establish good study habits

Middle school is the opportune time to develop time-management, organizational and study skills.  Things to work out include choosing the best study spaces, establishing a homework and study routine, and obtaining all the needed materials to complete assignments. It’s easier to address these issues now than when the work gets more challenging.


  1. Explore extracurricular activities 

On their college applications, students will need to show depth and leadership in at least one or two extracurricular areas. Middle school is a great time for students to try new things and figure out what activities and community service they enjoy most. Talk to different people about their careers, and explore sports, hobbies and volunteer opportunities that match a student’s interests. A child who enters high school committed to one or two activities or with a career goal in mind, will find it much easier to focus on building their resume during their four years of high school.


  1. Read, read, read

Reading strengthens a student’s verbal, writing and critical thinking abilities. Reading is great preparation for the SAT, ACT and high school reading assignments.  Almost any reading material – from graphic novels to books and blogs – will improve vocabulary and introduce new ideas.


  1. Choose challenging courses

Colleges look closely at what high school courses students choose to take. They want to see that a student is taking challenging courses. Students who challenge themselves in middle school will have more opportunities to choose the courses colleges want to see. Students want to position themselves to take full advantage of the AP / IB or other upper-level courses their high school offers.  To get on the right track, parents and their students should meet with their guidance counselor or their independent college counselor and discuss the courses that can be taken in middle school to prepare for high school.


  1. Get caught up and-or ahead

Students should seek out extra help and tutoring if they are not doing well in a particular academic area. Improving academic performance in middle school will better position them to earn better grades. Parents need to stay on top of their child’s grades and stay in contact with teachers and counselors, so they can inform about any changes in behavior or schoolwork.


  1. Talk about college

Envision the future with your child.  Talk about his or her interests, and how college can translate their dreams into a career.  Parents should also share their expectations with their middle school student. Parental expectations have a huge influence on what children expect of themselves, even if they don’t say or show it.


  1. Get familiar with college costs and how to save money

Start learning how to make college affordable. Options to cut college costs include scholarships, low-interest loans, work-study, taking college classes in high school, and attending a community college before going to a four-year school. Knowing how the system works can save families a lot of money and prevent panic. Students can cut costs by earning college credits through Advanced Placement (AP) classes in high school or dual-enrollment classes at a local community college.


Keep in mind, middle school is not the time to stress about college.  This is the time to get study habits, academics, and extracurriculars on the right track so there will be less stress in high school.


International College Counselors Note:

If your child is aiming for an Ivy League school or other highly competitive school, it is critical to start preparing in middle school.


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