Many parents expect their children to go to college eventually. It’s a necessary lifepath for anyone who wants to become a doctor, lawyer, or another role that requires extensive training. It can also help people make a living wage in other careers. If you’re already thinking about how your middle schoolers will do in a university setting, check out these eight ways to prepare your kids for college.
There are a few ways parents can help their children achieve a higher education long before they start applying to universities. These strategies will benefit their educational careers and even shape them into more successful independent adults.
1. Start Talking About It Early On
High schoolers hear more about college as they graduate each grade. School officials will guide them through things like finding scholarships and weighing their options when they’re juniors or seniors, but adults rarely talk to younger students about their future education.
Young people have an easier time making such big decisions if they’ve thought about them for a while. Parents can introduce the idea of going to college as early as middle school by starting conversations with a different perspective.
You could research public events happening soon on local campuses and take your kids on the weekends. They’ll get to walk around campuses, get a feel for a college’s environment, and start figuring out whether they like the location or not. They could form bonds that make them more excited to apply to specific campuses when they’re juniors in high school.
Parents who went to college could also talk about the experiences they had before they graduated. Your kids look up to you and even want to become like you when they grow up. They’ll want to go to college much more if they daydream about having fun experiences just like you did.
2. Sign Them Up for Advanced Classes
Schools almost always offer advanced classes for every subject in each grade. If your kids excel in their courses without trying, it might be a good idea to sign them up for one or two more challenging subjects. They’ll learn the same material with additional lessons, which benefits young students in multiple ways.
The more demanding courses will train them to get used to more challenging material. They’ll encounter situations like not understanding a lesson right away or needing more explanation for things. They’ll learn to ask their teachers for help, which is a humbling experience they’ll take into college and their future workplaces.
Kids in advanced classes also learn how to decide if a subject is incredibly challenging or if it’s too much for them to handle. Given that one-third of students switch undergrad majors, your children will have a much easier time accepting that potential outcome in the future. They’ll find a more suitable career path if they’re confident in their ability to tell when something is too hard.
3. Look Into College Savings Options
It’s never too soon to start saving for your child’s higher education. Many options are available to parents, but they’re all great ways to prepare your kids for college.
First, you can look into a 529 plan. A prepaid 529 plan allows parents or guardians to purchase credits or units for participating universities that convert to tuition money when your child enters college. It can be an excellent way to cover tuition, but it doesn’t pay for room and board bills with that money.
There are also education savings plans for 529 account owners. These plans are investment accounts for all college-related expenses at U.S. or international universities, both public and private. Be aware that there’s always some risk involved with investment accounts, depending on what happens with the stock market before your kids go to college.
Parents can also look into student loan options or inquire about borrowing from 401(k) accounts to pay tuition fees. Students can also save money by planning on signing up for advanced placement (AP) classes in high school, which count as college credits and may reduce how many semesters kids need to spend in college.
4. Find Them a Tutor
Tutoring is always an excellent way for students to excel in any grade. You may know a few who teach in your community, but your busy schedule or financial situation prevents you from signing your kids up for extra help.
Many parents trust online tutoring services because they’re convenient and budget-friendly. There are many to choose from, like the Princeton Review’s tutors. They work with students from all grades and are available all day every day, so your kids can get help even if they’re studying at midnight.
Accessing trained tutors right from your home could help your kids get ready for tougher college courses. They’ll also improve their grades and potentially get into their top university choice.
5. Teach Them Time Management Skills
Students always do better in college if they can manage their time well. It’s a skill people spend their entire lives learning, but it comes more naturally for anyone who starts practicing with a bit of help from their parents.
Start conversations with your middle schooler about how well their homework or study routine works for them. Show them how to restructure their after-school hours so they can make those decisions independently later on.
Kids can also practice time management skills by starting a personal calendar. Get them a planner or help them download a calendar app onto their phones or tablets. They’ll get used to moving things around and finding time for more pressing concerns, which is vital in college.
It’s also crucial for rising college students to understand that free time should always be part of their schedule. Reflect on how well your kids feel after hanging out with their friends or spending time on their hobbies. You can talk about how it reduces their anxiety by venting their frustrations and redirecting their focus.
Your children will grow up to become college students and graduates who can effectively juggle their responsibilities while taking care of their mental health because you started teaching them time management skills in middle school.
6. Try Different Study Habits
Many teenagers find themselves struggling when their first college courses begin. The material might be more rigorous or require a new way of studying. If they’re not used to trying new study methods, that approach might not occur to them. They won’t get as much from the education or college experience if they feel like they can’t keep up with their classes.
Parents can teach their children new study methods in middle school to prepare them for college. Show them how to try memorization techniques like:
- Studying for chunks of time with scheduled breaks in between
- Using index cards for new material
- Downloading study apps for kids in their grade
- Reading textbooks and annotating essential points in the margins
- Reviewing highlighted text to remember the most crucial information
Everyone will learn best in different ways, but trying new study habits is crucial even when techniques don’t work well. Teens need to know what doesn’t feel natural with the way their minds work and what does before they dive into more rigorous course material in high school and university classes.
7. Help Them Love Reading
How often do your kids sit down to read for fun? Do they have a library card or a bookshelf in their rooms? It’s always a good time to help your children fall in love with reading. They don’t have to be a certain age to find a genre that fascinates them as much as any movie or video game.
There’s also an academic advantage to reading books outside of the classroom. A recent study found that kids who read numerous types and lengths of books made better grades in school during their elementary and middle school years.
Reading for fun trains a young person’s brain to problem-solve along with plot lines, remember information more quickly, and get used to focusing for extended periods. These are all valuable skills to have when college begins. They’ll also gain an extensive vocabulary, which helps students earn higher grades on SAT and ACT tests before applying to universities.
8. Sign Up for Extracurricular Activities
College admissions boards want to accept applicants with excellent grades, but they also want well-rounded students with lives outside of the classroom. University students must arrive ready to give back to campus life and the local community. Young people with a history of extracurricular activities stand a better chance of getting into college.
Middle schoolers can begin forming their resume by volunteering with organizations. Sign your family up to work in a food kitchen or local garden. Your kids could babysit or dogsit for neighbors. It depends on their interests.
Any activity will teach them skills they’ll need for future extracurriculars and jobs, like communication, time management, and commitment. They’re also all things universities want to find in potential applicants.
Prepare Your Kids for College
There are many ways to prepare your kids for college, but these are a few places to start while they’re in middle school. Gaining skills outside of class, learning how their brains prefer to study, and asking for help from a tutor when needed are all things that will help them succeed in a university setting – especially when they start learning those things early in life.