Has your student started preparing for college? One of the top five questions I get every time I speak to a large audience is when should they start preparing? The answer is quite simple: Your child should start preparing for college when he or she is ready and shows interest.

In my line of work, I often encounter many people who are interested in my son’s journey to Harvard. As soon as someone finds out that my son got into Harvard and graduated in four-years debt free, they want the magic secret! I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is no secret. Good behaviors, habits, hard work, and passion is what will lead your student to a dream school.

Tips for getting into college

After being a College Consultant for more than seven years, I have seen a pattern emerge in the students who are successful in getting into the college of their dreams.

Here are things I have seen time and time again:
● Teach your student to love reading and knowledge from an early age. An early introduction to books can have a great impact. Read to them, and when they are old enough, have them read to you. This may sound simple, but establishing a love for learning will help them enjoy school through college.
● Talk to your student about your college experience and your alma mater. Tell them how much you enjoyed college. This sets the tone for future conversation and questions about college.
● When you are on a family vacation, take a half-day and tour a nearby college. Let your student see what college life is like and why it is important for them to attend college. College is not for everyone, but at the early stages of childhood, sharing knowledge is the key to having options.

When to start preparing for college

When it comes to a personal enjoyment of education: this will happen at different times for each student. If you have a student who enjoys learning, then I suggest you put them into a college prep school or the GATE program at a public school. The goal is to keep the student challenged and enjoying learning. The key here is not to push the child or force them, but to support and guide them. Balance is the key to a lifetime of learning.

Pursuing passions is a huge part of preparing for college. Most kids are already showing interest in particular hobbies at a young age, and it is important to expose children to a variety of activities. Time-wise, most students will know their gifts and talents by middle school. Continue to encourage your student to try new things. The classes they take in middle school will set them up for their high school academic experience.

Get the support you need

Seek some academic support as soon as you realize your student may need help in one subject or across the curriculum. It is unrealistic to think that if your student struggles in math, that they will be allowed to take the more challenging math classes in high school. Your student will be tested along the way, and these tests will be used to assess where your student will be placed in high school. If your student is struggling in one subject, it is recommended to get a tutor as soon as you are able. Math, for example, is a building block. If a student struggles in pre-algebra, he or she will find algebra 1 and algebra 2 very difficult. Always make sure your student masters the fundamentals before moving on too quickly.

In English, the same can be true. If a student struggles with sentence structure, he or she will not want to write essays in high school and college. This may seem fundamental, but this is where many parents make mistakes with shaping their students’ schedules. Pushing a student to move on to the next level too quickly will stress out the student and can cause future problems.

Planning in middle school

Eighth grade is truly when a student should start preparing for college. No, your student will not list all eighth-grade classes or grades. However, be aware that your student will get the opportunity to take high school level classes in middle school. These courses are like a gateway; they will allow students to start high school at an advantage. Taking classes like advanced math, English and a foreign language are ways to get ahead. If your student takes pre-algebra in 8th grade, they will get to start high school in algebra etc. Every class counts!

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