College Preparation Should Start in Middle School; Tips for Success

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Independent education consultant Mandee Heller Adler of International College Counselors says middle school is the ideal time to start college planning as Forbes publishes its America's Top Colleges Ranking 2015.

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International College Counselors

Middle school students should not be picking specific colleges to go to. They should be working on reaching a general goal, which is to get into a selective school.

The time to start college planning is…in middle school. Starting the process now, before high school and the real pressure of college applications begin, will make the process easier.

In middle school, the focus of parents and their middle school students should be 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. Seventh and eighth grades are the time to set a student up to have the strongest possible start in high school.

"Middle school students should not be picking specific colleges to go to. They should be working on reaching a general goal, which is to get into a selective school," said independent education consultant Mandee Heller Adler, founder of International College Counselors

Parents and middle school students should be doing the following:

1. Establishing good study habits
Middle school is the opportune time to work on good time-management, organizational and study skills. Things to work out include choosing the best study spaces, establishing a homework and study routine, and making sure to have all the needed materials to complete assignments. It’s easier to address these issues now than it will be when the work gets more challenging.

2 Exploring 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. Students should try different volunteer opportunities, talk to different people about their careers, and explore sports, hobbies and interests. If your child enters high school committed to one activity or with a career goal in mind, it will be much easier to for them to focus on developing the necessary skills and resume during their four years of high school.

3. Reading, reading, reading
Reading strengthens a student’s verbal, writing and critical thinking abilities. The more a student reads, the stronger he or she will be. Reading is great preparation for the SAT, ACT and high school reading assignments. Almost anything a pre-teen or teenager reads – from comics and graphic novels to books and blogs – will improve their vocabulary and introduce new ideas.

4. Choosing challenging courses
Colleges look closely at what high school courses students take. The more students challenge themselves and college prep in middle school, the easier high school will be, and the more opportunities students will have later on. Many middle schools offer high school courses in biology, algebra I, geometry, and Spanish. Don’t be afraid to tackle these classes. 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.

5. Getting caught up and-or ahead
Middle school is a good time for students to seek out extra help and tutoring if they are not doing well in a particular academic area. Students who can improve their academic performance in middle school will be positioned to earn better grades. Parents need to stay on top of their child’s grades on tests and report cards, and stay in contact with teachers and counselors so that they can inform about any changes in behavior or schoolwork.

6. Talking about college
Parents need to envision the future with their child. Talk about his or her interests, and how college is needed to translate their dreams into a career. Parents need to let their middle school student know their expectations for their child. Parental expectations have a huge influence on what children expect of themselves, even if they don’t say or show it.

7. Getting 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 by taking 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.

"Planning ahead is particularly important for students who want to gain admission to selective colleges," said Adler.

Forbes released their list of America's Top Colleges Ranking 2015 (7.29.15) this week.

About International College Counselors
The expert educational consultants at International College Counselors are dedicated to helping students and their families from across the country and all over the world find, apply to, and gain admission to the college of their dreams. Students and their families who would like to learn how to successfully navigate the college admissions process, please contact our expert college advisors at info@internationalcollegecounselors.com or call 954-414-9986.

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