Prepare Now: 3 Tips For an Early Start on College Prep By Emma Sturgis

Middle school marks many milestones for students, including first school dances, first battles with acne and many other rites of passage. It’s also the time when you should start preparing your child for college. Although it may seem early, college preparation is a multifaceted process that takes several years to complete. Starting early allows your student to satisfy admission requirements easily so they can enjoy their senior year without worry.

Know The Requirements

Colleges can afford to be choosy, and many of the best universities are. This makes it crucial to know what colleges want and make sure you fit it all in. Most, for example, require at least two years of a foreign language. Others require students to reach certain levels in mathematics and English. Some schools may require applicants to have completed a class in trigonometry, for instance. Because each new math level builds on prior knowledge, it can take three years of algebra before a student is ready to take a class in trigonometry. So if your chosen college requires one year of trig for admission, your student will actually need four years of math classes to meet the requirement. As you can see, it’s easy to run out of time. Knowing admissions requirements lets you guide your child’s academic work and help them pick the right electives.

Read, Read, Read

Reading is to college preparation as location is to real estate. Reading is the best way to expand your child’s vocabulary and prepare them for the reading comprehension portion of the SAT and ACT tests. This practice also prepares students for the rigorous reading requirements of college. Students who aren’t used to reading are often overwhelmed by the amount of it that college requires. Get your student in the habit of reading something every single day. It doesn’t matter what your child reads so long as they do it frequently. Let your child pick a favorite magazine or genre so that they learn to enjoy reading rather than viewing it as a chore. Another benefit of reading practice is that it can help those with dyslexia and other reading challenges find ways to work around their issues, such as books on tape, so they know what learning support they need and are ready to get it in a college setting.

Build A Meaningful Resume

When it comes to college admissions, extracurricular activities matter. Colleges prefer students who have actively participated in life outside of the classroom. Find activities your student enjoys and encourage participation. Volunteering, playing sports and writing for the school newspaper are all beneficial and look good on college applications. Extracurricular activities can also help students find their passion. Knowing what kids enjoy helps to determine which careers they are best suited for and which college degrees are most likely to help them achieve their goals. While extra activities do boost college applications, the quality of activities is valued over their quantity. It’s best to focus on activities that your child truly enjoys rather than cramming in as many extras as you can. Activities that teach leadership and make a difference are the most valued by college admissions officers.

Although it may seem early, middle school is the perfect time to start thinking about college preparation. It may be too soon to pick a school or choose a major, but it’s an excellent time to start exploring your child’s interests and helping them build a strong academic foundation. The good study habits and social skills your child learns now will help them perform well in high school and beyond so they can follow their dreams as adults.