Top 8 College Prep Tips for Middle School through High School
While it’s never too early to start laying the foundation for a successful college experience, middle school through high school is when the most important steps need to be taken. There are many things students and parents can start doing now to prepare for college, but it can be difficult to know where to begin. Even before choosing a preferred college, you can increase the chances of being accepted to a desirable college by starting with the following tips:
1. Research college admissions requirements.
If the student already knows which college he or she wishes to attend, begin immediately by researching the admissions guidelines for that college. If there is a minimum score on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) that the college is looking for, or a specific GPA they require, the student should begin admissions work now and practice for the SAT. Knowing the basic requirements to get accepted into the college of their choice helps gives students actual goals to work toward.
2. Speak with a guidance counselor.
If a student is undecided about a career choice or field of study to pursue, make an appointment with a guidance counselor for extra college preparation help. Another way to explore ideas for a future career is to take classes (such as from a local community college, a library, or an online private school program) that teach about that particular field of interest.
3. Get into the habit of reading every day.
Encourage your student to develop the habit of reading. In college, reading assignments can be overwhelming, so a student will be better prepared for the rigors of university classes by developing the habit of reading early. It doesn’t matter what they read, as long as students develop a habit to read every day. Extra reading time should help increase comprehension and vocabulary, too!
4. Research scholarships and grants.
There are many resources available for paying college tuition, such as grants and scholarships (don’t forget to apply for FAFSA). Students should also understand the financial responsibility that comes with taking out student loans if necessary to help fund their college education.
Check with specific colleges (and even specific departments within the college) to see the kinds of scholarships they offer, and start working on meeting the requirements. Additionally, community organizations may offer scholarships for those who demonstrate need, earn a certain GPA, or pursue a particular field of study.
5. Pursue leadership roles and meaningful extracurriculars.
Encourage your student to take on leadership roles in school or extracurricular activities that have meaning for the student. College admissions boards value students who are able to commit to something they care about. Students with a diverse set of passions and interests have a better chance of getting admitted (especially at elite universities).
Some examples of attractive extracurricular activities to participate in include:
- Volunteer work
- Sports teams
- After-school clubs
- Student government
The most important thing to keep in mind is to help your students choose extracurriculars that are meaningful to them and are not just something that you think will offer a better chance of getting accepted to a good college. If your student enjoys and finds meaning in a hobby or after-school activity, he or she will naturally put more energy into it.
6. List your preferred colleges.
Make a list of colleges that the student is interested in attending, and prioritize them according to the most desirable. Help your student evaluate what factors are most important to him or her in choosing a college or university. A few ideas to consider: available majors, distance from home, availability of on-campus housing, and affordability. Families may want to plan in-person visits to the schools that make the priority list.
Applying to several colleges gives the student more choices and opportunities to pick from upon graduation from high school. And if he or she doesn’t get into the top choice, there will be several other exciting, high-quality options.
7. Start developing necessary skills.
Start now to develop technical skills such as using popular business software and conducting Internet research. A student who understands how to use the Internet as a research tool, as well as popular word processing, design, presentation, and spreadsheet tools, is able to accomplish daily assignments and complete projects for college classes faster and more efficiently.
With the academic and social demands of college, a student will also have a more successful experience having developed time management skills early on. There are many time management apps to help keep students on track with their studies and social commitments.
8. Work on communication skills.
Developing communication skills, both oral and written, is another important aspect of being a successful student in college. Colleges look for students who are able to express themselves effectively in writing as well as confidently in an interview. Teachers appreciate working with students who can produce well-written assignments and give oral presentations that demonstrate understanding of the subject matter being taught.
These skills, of course, will be further developed in college and improve the student’s ability to have healthy and strong connections in the college community in preparation for the workforce.
When getting ready to apply for and attend college, students who get a head start and work hand in hand with their parents are setting themselves up for success. So even if your student is still in middle school, it’s not too early to get started. While you already know that your children are amazing, with your support, they will truly surprise you—and themselves!—with the great things they can accomplish!
As a student or parent, how are you preparing for college? Join the conversation in the comments below.