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Resource CenterParent ResourcesCollege PreparationPreparing Your Middle Schooler for College

(Subtly) Preparing Your Middle Schooler for College

It’s all too easy these days to be inundated with news about higher education.  There are a myriad of stories about how competitive the application process has become.  And, of course, many outlets continually post articles regarding the financial costs of college.  As the parent of a middle school-aged child you might be kicking back, thankful that you don’t have to worry about any of this quite yet.  And while it’s true you have a few years to go, it’s actually not too early to start helping your child prepare.

Please understand; we’re not suggesting that college tours should replace summer camp just yet.  Or that you should frantically enroll your twelve year-old in an SAT test prep class.  However, there are subtle nudges and simple hints you can make that will gently guide your child and (hopefully) put him/her on a successful path towards college.

Push Those Books

As you’re likely already aware, there are many advantages and benefits to being a voracious reader.  Indeed, avid readers typically have larger vocabularies and are often stronger test-takers (both of which will come in handy when it’s eventually time for your child to sit for the SAT/ACT).  Additionally, they develop sound, effective communication skills and frequently display keen imaginations of their own (also integral as they continue their education).  Therefore, as a parent, one of the best moves you can make is to help your child foster a love of reading.

Take Out the Trash

When it comes to the subject of household chores, you’re likely already a step ahead of us.  However, you may not have realized its connection to higher education.  Assigning your children ongoing duties is a great way to teach them about personal responsibility.  Since you’re not going to be there to do the laundry or make the bed when they go off to college, chores can help kids learn how to become self-sufficient.  Additionally, household work can also teach children how to prioritize and ensure that they aren’t too coddled.  The more your child is able to care for himself and prioritize effectively, the more successful he’ll be as a college student.   

Embrace Hobbies

Surely, academics are important and should be seen as a priority.  However, there’s also a good deal of value in periodically pushing the textbooks aside in favor of extracurricular pursuits. Indeed, hobbies and outside activities will help your children become well-rounded individuals (a quality most colleges favor).  It doesn’t matter if your son wants to pursue pole vaulting or pottery or if your daughter favors salsa dancing or mountain biking.  Allow them to explore existing passions and/or develop new ones.  After all, extracurricular activities frequently provide alternative learning experiences and help kids build character.  And, they often inform future academic and professional choices.  

Take on Challenges (Academic or Otherwise)

We all know that life can certainly be trying at times.  And, as your child gets older, the number and scope of challenges (both inside and outside the classroom) he faces will only grow.  However, don’t let him shirk from obstacles.  It sets a poor example.  And colleges definitely aren’t interested in students who take the easy way out.  Instead, push him to take that Algebra class or try out for the traveling soccer team.  Yes, it might be difficult.  Yes, it will likely involve hard work and maybe even some sweat and tears mixed in.  However, he will also learn how to persevere even though it seems a  daunting task at the outset.  He could discover smarts and talents he never knew existed.  And he’ll be more likely to take on challenges when he hits high school and college.

All the News That’s Fit to Print…

Make it a point to discuss current events with your children.  It doesn’t matter if you engage in debates over dinner, talk politics during carpool or set aside Saturday morning to peruse the paper as a family.  Establish a precedent and a pattern that encourages your children to become informed citizens.  Colleges are attracted to students who are curious about and aware of the world at large.  Moreover, this acquired knowledge will inform and augment what your kids learn in the classroom.  And it will help them understand how to shape cogent arguments and appreciate communities and cultures beyond their own.

Allow for Some Down Time

We all know that many children today are over-scheduled and (perhaps) over-stressed.  They deal with academic pressures in the classroom, the stress of a multitude of standardized tests and then, as soon as the final bell rings, they are quickly shuttled off to baseball practice and violin lessons.  While all of these are important to their development, it’s also critical to realize that your child needs to stop and catch his breath every now and again.  If kids aren’t given time to recharge, they are more likely to lose focus, get sick and burn out.  Strive to help them find a healthy balance.

Sure, you still have some time before you’re nagging your child to work on his personal statement for College X or do some SAT practice problems.  However, by following these simple rules, you’ll help your child establish good habits that will come in handy, be applicable and allow him to excel in the years to come.


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Don Munce