Caution: This article is not about parents hovering over 13-year old to force them into Harvard grads. However, the seventh and eighth grades are not too early to start developing habits that will help students have the kind of high school experience that will lead them to a good college education.
Middle school preparation is about getting ready for high school. Too many high school students take their ninth and tenth grade years to get up to speed. That means that half their high school record is not as good as it could be. In competitive college selection that could matter. Although the seventh and eighth grades and activities never appear in your college application, these two school years can affect what does appear in that application.
Here are some suggestions for ensuring the seventh and eighth grade experience improves your chances of getting into the college you may want to attend. First, there are suggestions for academic preparation.
• Start now to take challenging courses. Middle school can set you on a track that will lead you to higher level courses in high school: in languages, in math and science, and for AP courses. It will be hard for you to take calculus your senior year if you have not had Algebra I in your eighth grade year.
• Start taking a foreign language. Colleges want to see strength in foreign languages. If you start in middle school, you will have not only more years in a language, but you will also have a better chance to take other languages in high school or develop very high levels of proficiency in one or two languages throughout high school.
• Start now honing both time management and study skills. This is not the time to slack off, thinking you will get up to speed in high school. Why not hit high school with the basics skills so you will have a better chance of earning good grades through all four years of high school? Don’t waste your 9th and 10th years trying to learn to handle heavier school loads.
• Get some tutoring if you are having academic problems, especially in math and science. You want to enter high school without any deficits. You will want to be able to apply yourself completely to new materials without having to remediate.
• And READ. Read on your own beyond what is assigned in school. It is good to enjoy reading and be comfortable reading. Increased reading also increases you vocabulary and helps with both critical thinking and writing, all of which will improve your SATs or ACTs for college application.
Beyond academics think about
• Exploring extracurricular activities. Find what you like to do. Colleges are looking for leadership and depth outside the classroom in one or two areas. If you can find out what you like in middle school, you will not waste time in high school exploring. Rather you can concentrate on getting to a leadership positon in a sport or finding out about volunteerism in depth, not just from a one or two time outing.
Preparing for college in middle school should not be about stressing yourself and losing your youth! It is a time to develop your interests and your academic strengths. This will enable you to have the best high school experience you can have, and that will put you on the path to college.