While I do not think students need to focus on the colleges they will be attending in the future, middle school students can definitely start preparing for college.
What can middle school students do now to plan for college?
- Take challenging classes. Take classes that challenge you, versus taking the easiest classes available.
- Math – Aim to take Algebra in middle school.
- Foreign Language – the majority of colleges require students to take a foreign language in high school. Taking a foreign language will give you a head start.
- Do well in your classes. Do your homework and study. If you need help, ask for help from teachers, parents or tutors. The classes and grades you receive in middle school have a direct correlation to the classes you will take in high school.
- Find extracurricular activities you enjoy. Take the time in middle school to find the activities you truly enjoy. Colleges want to see students that are involved in meaningful activities. Start early finding what you truly enjoy and dive in to the activity. By the time you’re in high school, you’ll be able to start taking on leaderships roles in that activity.
- Search and apply for scholarships. A big misconception that students and parents have is that there are only scholarships available for high school students. Wrong! There are many scholarships for younger students. The easiest way to find out about scholarships is to sign-up with a scholarship website such as Fastweb. Once you provide some information about yourself, Fastweb will give you a list of scholarships that meet your qualifications. In addition, as new scholarships are added to the database, you will be notified.
- Think about what you want to do when you grow up. It is not too early to start thinking about this. The earlier you start narrowing down the list, the earlier you can start trying the careers out yourself by doing deeper research, talking to people in the professions and even interning/working in the field.
Middle school students can also start exploring colleges. While it is easy to set your mind on one college, I encourage students to explore different college options. Many colleges out there are outstanding, including colleges you may have never heard of yet. Middle school students can attend college fairs and visit colleges, but your main focus during middle school should be to prepare for college in general.