Middle school is often seen as a time of transition. It is not surprising then, that students in middle school can and should start preparing for college. While it is still some years away, college is not as distant as it was in elementary school. What's a middle school student to do?
Finding Your Child's Path
Part of the answer is to keep up good habits from elementary school or develop these habits if they don't yet exist. Career awareness and exposure is still important as students begin to think more seriously about their interests and skills. Like in elementary school, this exposure can come from discussions with parents, and thinking critically about what type of future your child wants. It isn't too early to research your child's future interests.
There are a few free websites that are particularly useful:
Fostering Your Child's Interest
Your middle school student can also begin to think about their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as their interests. If your child is not sure or has not shown particular interest in one area or another, middle school is a great time to explore these possibilities. For example, if your child is passionate about building things but has weak math skills, they might want to get help in math or learn new study skills. For students with interests in a variety of different fields, it could be beneficial to start to think of which interests overlap with one of their talent areas.
As your child nears the end of their middle school years, they should also start to think about how these interests and talents may impact courses they may want to take in high school. For example, student who wants to be an engineer would want to take a challenging math course freshman year so that they can take calculus before graduation. Students who are unsure may want to take a variety of challenging courses so they are able to have strong options later on.
Extracurriculars Are a Must
Just as your child is beginning to narrow down an academic focus, they can narrow down extracurricular activities to the ones that they are truly passionate about. This is important because many colleges value commitment and dedication. They react to students more positively if they are engaged in activities for all four years of high school rather than just the last two years, or if they in several different clubs each year. Middle school is a great time to start paring down the variety of commitments and focusing on areas of interest. It is also a good time to continue volunteering in areas that interest your child. Community service is valued by colleges and high schools, so if your child is not involved in some way, middle school is a good time to get started.
Finally, your child can develop strong study habits. Middle school often involves frequently switching classes, which requires students to develop study skills that were not always necessary in elementary school. Skills like time management, independence, focus, organization, making flash cards, and developing a routine are critical to success throughout your child's life. Middle school is a time for transition and exploration. Gradually implementing these strategies and guidelines can help make a student ready for the next steps in their education.