There are differences in opinion as to when students should start thinking about college. Some families start thinking about college before a baby is born, while other students start thinking about college when they get to high school. When it comes to thinking about college, it is never too early. However, thinking about college does not just mean choosing the colleges you want to attend.
Choosing a college, and even looking at different colleges, can wait until students are in high school. But, there are many things students can do in their younger years that can set them on the right path for college:
- Do well in classes. Students need to do their homework and study. If they need help, ask for help from teachers, parents, and tutors. When students stay on top of their studies and master the skills, it will be easier to move on to the next step in their academic career. Doing well in elementary school and middle school will allow students to go on to the next grade levels without falling behind.
- Take challenging classes. Middle school students can take classes that will challenge them academically instead of taking an “easy” class. While most class offerings are the same for students, a few are different. Although colleges probably will not see middle school classes or grades, the classes students take in middle school will lead to the classes they take in high school. College admission officers will see high school classes and they want to see students challenging themselves academically.
- Math. If students are ready for the challenge, they should aim to take Algebra in middle school if available. Math is sequential and by starting early, students can continue taking advanced math classes throughout high school.
- Foreign Language. Many colleges require students to take a foreign language in high school. Taking a foreign language in middle school will give them a head start.
- Read. Get a love of reading early by reading often. As students move through school, they will be required to read more and more. Loving to read will help them move through their reading assignments and understand what they are reading. In addition, studies say there are many benefits to reading including mental stimulation, stress reduction, memory improvement, and improved focus and concentration. All of these benefits can help students with their studies.
- Find enjoyable extracurricular activities. Starting early with outside activities will help students explore their interests and hone in on their passions. Colleges want to see students who are involved in meaningful activities. By taking the time early to find their passion, younger students will be able to really dive into the activities. In addition, by the time students reach high school, they will be able to start taking on leadership roles in the activities.
- Search and apply for scholarships. A big misconception that many people have is that scholarships are not available for younger students. However, there are scholarships out there for younger students, even students in elementary school. Check out the scholarships I have found that are for students of all age groups and start applying today. Starting early could make the difference when it comes time to pay for college in the future.
- Think about future careers. It is never too early to start thinking about what you want to be when you grow up. We even ask kindergarten students what they want to be when they grow up. We know the career choices for most students will change as they grow up, and that is okay. Talking about possible careers can help students learn about themselves, what they like, and what they need to do in the future to reach that goal.
Thinking about college is a lot more than just placing colleges on your list. There is a lot of preparation that goes into preparing for college. Preparation can start early by getting on a great academic path. Choosing colleges for your list can wait until high school. For now, the best thing for elementary school and middle school students to do is to do well in their classes and explore their interests and passions. By starting off strong in these areas, students will be more likely to continue down the right path to college.