• 10 Things Middle School Students and Their Parents Can Do to Prepare for College and Careers

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  • Here is a list that will give your middle school student a start on thinking about, talking about, and preparing for college and future careers.

    1. Read, read, and read even more

    Immerse yourself in good books. Reading will continue to prepare you for standardized tests and advanced schoolwork. Don’t limit yourself to books! Read magazine articles, blogs, newspapers, and online news articles, too!

    2. Expand your vocabulary

    Now is the perfect time to capture the challenging vocabulary words from all the books you are reading. Write them down so you can use them in your writing and speaking. When you take the SAT or ACT to get into college, that work you’ve put into learning vocabulary can’t help but increase your scores. Remember too that a good performance on the PSAT in 10th grade can earn you scholarships.

    3. Develop solid study skills and good work habits

    Keep yourself from getting distracted with a distraction-free learning zone in your home so you can focus on schoolwork. Remember also to take clear notes during class and while you read, study thoroughly for tests, and read to understand, not just to finish (even if that means you read some parts again).

    4. Participate in extracurricular activities

    Sports, clubs, art contests, youth groups, and other activities are important! They help you learn who you are and what makes you happy. If you participate in lots of different activities during middle school, you will know what one or two activities to focus on in high school – a focus that will help you find leadership roles and personal growth.

    Meaningful extracurricular activities will help you choose high school electives and extracurricular activities. You will become a well-rounded young adult and good colleges will want you.

    5. Explore music and art

    We’ve all heard that the study of music and art is connected with success in school, with self-leadership, and with self-confidence. So pick up a musical instrument or a paintbrush, or learn to sing or dance to music. In addition to enlightening your mind and organizing your thoughts, music and art uplifts, heals, and calms.

    6. Identify personal strengths and weaknesses

    We all have them – things we do well and the things we struggle with. You may already know your particular challenges and talents. Look at this list with your parents. Which are strengths? Which need more work? Do you have others that aren’t listed?

    • Understanding mathematical concepts – knowing what you can figure out on your own and when to ask for explanations.
    • Writing clearly and grammatically – try reading your writing out loud. Does it make sense? Work on it until it does.
    • Comprehending concepts and events in reading – similar to the writing one… does what you just read mean anything to you? If not, read it again.
    • Reading speed – read slowly enough to understand, but quickly enough that you can finish your schoolwork.
    • Asking for help appropriately – try to work it out for yourself first, but don’t wait too long (until you’re frustrated and don’t want to do it) to ask for help.

    7. Identify careers you might like

    Some students know (and have known since they were kindergartners) what they want to do with their lives. However, if you are like many, you don’t really have any idea what you want to be when you grow up – or it changes all the time. Pay attention and ask lots of questions of the guests that participate in your school-sponsored Career Day!

    8. Get very involved in your child’s choice of classes

    Parents should meet with your student’s guidance counselor to review recent scores from the classroom and standardized testing to see if they would qualify for honors or accelerated classes. To improve your student’s chances of getting into a good college, you need to also aim for a college prep emphasis in selecting classes. Depending on the level of the class, some student’s GPA for college may start counting as early as the 8th grade!

    9. Start your individual graduation plan in 8th grade —  Four Years Can Change Forever (HCS Website)

    You will have an opportunity to sit down with your guidance counselor in 8th grade to develop your individual graduation plan for high school. This session will guide you through the state requirements for graduation and what additional classes/credits are required for many colleges.

    And last, but DEFINITELY not least is an ongoing one:

    10. Talk with your parents about college

    The idea of talking with your parents about college right now may seem a little strange, but we are not suggesting that you choose a certain college or even a major area of study, simply that you bring it up. Is college a priority for your parents? For you? If so, set a goal. Is it important to your parents that you attend a certain school or a certain type of school? Setting that goal will help you when you are tempted to think that middle school grades don’t count. Know that the things you learn (or don’t) in middle school will determine your high school grades which will influence your college options. Start thinking about what you need to do to get into college and ask for your parents’ support on the way.

  • Sources: College Board, Big Future, Great Schools.org, Williamsburg Learning, NCAA, Federal Student Aid office of the US Department of Education, Princeton Review and US News and World Report.