Think back to your own middle school years: was college planning on your mind? If that sounds too early to you, think again! Today, many guidance specialists suggest that 8th grade is the optimal time to start charting the course toward college. Intentional conversations and careful planning can prepare your child for wise and informed decisions in high school that can yield a great college experience and a successful career. How can you best prepare your child for high school with a view toward college? We’ve compiled some practical tips!
1. Become a Student of Your Student
Can you readily identify your child’s passions and strengths? What do teachers and achievement test results suggest? Through well-timed conversations in teachable moments, you can help your child make the connection between abilities, interests, and potential career choices.
Talk about the preparation needed for careers that interest them. Would your child thrive in a college close to home or far away? Is their bent more toward a small campus or a large one? Do you wish to guide them toward a distinctively Christian college? Discovering the answers to these questions might be a process that takes many weeks and months.
The idea is not to create pressure on a young teen to make important life decisions, but to guide their research and planning. While the assumed college choice will likely change several times during the exploration process, having a college goal may be the motivation your child needs to put their studies in high gear.
2. Take the Essential Classes
No matter what your child’s list of career possibilities, high school classes in advanced math and science, progression in English and history, at least two years of a foreign language, and strong computer science preparation should pave the way for any number of college options.
Students who take algebra in eighth grade and geometry in ninth grade are positioned to move into advanced math classes in high school, and that means the potential for Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Successful completion of AP classes can have a big benefit for your wallet by allowing your student to save on college tuition.
The takeaway here is that middle school classes — and subsequent high school classes — really matter. Stay involved in the process of course selection.
3. Yes, Grades Are Important
While that may seem oh-so obvious, it’s easy for other good activities to crowd out the essential elements of the school experience. College admissions counselors don’t just look at grades from the senior year; they’ll review a student’s entire four years of high school. That means that patterns of organization and study skills set in the middle school years will set the stage for high school achievement.
Begin by making your home environment more conducive to accomplishing homework tasks. What distractions can you eliminate? Might more regular check-ins be needed? The single biggest predictor of success in college is a student’s high school record.
4. Think Outside the Classroom
Your child may have sampled a wide range of co-curricular activities and interests, but it might be time to help them identify their greatest strengths and abilities. Colleges usually prefer to see sustained interest and meaningful involvement in a few high-quality activities, rather than a smattering of brief endeavors.
Athletics, arts, and clubs are all great ways to develop a well-rounded and meaningful life, but too many at one time can dilute the benefit they provide. Encourage your child to start focusing on one or two favorite interests outside of class.
5. Service and Leadership Matter
Colleges look for students who can be positive difference-makers both on campus and in society. And truly, isn’t that what we want to see in our children as well?
Encourage your child to consider using school break periods to make a positive impact on your community through tutoring, serving the needy, taking a missions trip with the church youth group, or organizing a food drive. These activities aren’t just to develop a resume; they build character, compassion, and perseverance.
6. Take a Virtual Tour
It’s both time-consuming and expensive to trek around the country for campus visits. Why not start the process with a virtual tour? Many colleges and university websites feature online tours and videos that provide a good first exposure. Take advantage of these introductory opportunities to streamline the college options.
Obviously, these online tours won’t replace the need for a later in-person visit, but they will provide a sense of the school’s culture, and perhaps even serve as an incentive to your child as they enter the high school years.
7. Don’t Hesitate to Seek Help
There are ample opportunities for a mid-course correction. If tutoring should be explored, there’s no time like the present to get started! Numerous online resources can assist a student with organization and time management. Keep the lines of communication flowing freely with your child’s teachers and seek their wisdom in identifying areas that need strengthening.
The good news for middle school parents is that Northside Christian Academy has a proven track record of students achieving admission to top colleges around the nation. By providing challenging academics, a Christian worldview, diverse co-curricular activities, and thorough guidance throughout the middle school and high school years, NCA gives parents in Mecklenburg County, NC, the resources they need to prepare students for college and beyond.
Ready to learn how NCA can help your child prepare for high school?