Middle School College Planning Checklist

Planning for college is easier the earlier you start. Discover some core ways to help your middle-school tween prepare for higher education.

Some may think that preparing for college in middle school is too early, but it’s actually the best time to start! Preparing your middle schooler for college puts less pressure on you and your child. Your child has a lot of flexibility in middle school, and there are many opportunities for them to become a star student.

As your child moves into middle school, there are a number of things you can both do to help prepare for their unique higher education experience.

Wondering where to start? We’ve got you covered with ways to prepare your middle schooler for college. Dive in to learn those key steps to help your child get a head start on their future.

Know your child’s next steps

How many years of middle school are left? Starting middle school is very different for your child than graduating. Short-term and long-term, creating an academic timeline will help you and your child see the big picture.

Middle school is a great period of growth for children. Kids are becoming more aware of themselves and their interests, but also of each other. This opens the possibility for bullying and ostracizing. It is important to be aware of the adversities that can pop up. Be your child’s support system.

Create awareness of high school

High school is not as scary as your child thinks, so help them understand that. Students can go in any direction as early as high school. Does your child want to pursue history? Math? Chemistry? Musical theater?

High schools provide a wide variety of classes that allow students to branch out and test the waters of multiple subjects. The great thing about middle school is many offer the same opportunities to branch out as high schools. This way, your child can go into high school, and eventually college, already knowing what they are passionate about. 

Know your child

What kind of student are they? Is your child the intellectual leader? The social leader? Will they potentially need extra help with school work? This goes back to being your child’s support system. What is intellectually interesting to them? Do they have any special interests that they like to learn about in their free time?

Encourage communication about things they enjoy doing and things they are assigned to do for school. Let your child be the co-pilot in it all. It is their future, after all.

Foster friendships

Many students lose and gain friends as they transition from middle to high school, and especially when transitioning to college. School activities can help your child gain friendships they might otherwise lack in the first few months of high school — and nurture important relationship skills that will serve them well into the future.

Explore what your child’s middle school — and future high school — has to offer. Seeking out groups in the community is also a great way for your child to branch out and meet other kids who may not go to their school.

Encourage extracurriculars

Sports, hobbies and creative expression: It’s important for your child to know that they don’t have to be the best at something in order to enjoy it. Extracurriculars can help with academics by allowing your child to think from a new angle.

A 2020 survey of middle and high school students and teachers, done by ​​Phi Delta Kappa International, found that students prefer peer-to-peer connections (i.e., extracurriculars) over increased counseling. The lack of connection due to the COVID-19 pandemic affected the mental health of students across the nation. It is apparent that a sense of belonging is what students are actively seeking out.

Create a productive daily schedule

Having a schedule to follow creates organization and independence. A responsible student will succeed in many areas. In her article “The Benefits of Guiding Students to Develop Good Habits,” Crystal Frommert, M.Ed., found that teaching her young students to create good habits helped them achieve their goals, rather than just setting goals. Breaking down the big picture can make goals become more tangible. 

Get familiar with college costs

Be aware of your financial options when it comes to higher education. There are many ways to finance a college education, including completing the FAFSA for loans and grants, a 529 savings plan from MESP or MET, and even the College Board’s Scholarship Search.

Additionally, think ahead to Advanced Placement (AP) classes your child might like to take in high school. These can help them get a head start on their college credit requirements. 

Finish strong and have a smart summer

Academics rarely level out after middle school; there’s still so much to learn! Knowing what classes your child will take during their freshman year will help you help them. You can prepare math and science-related activities, and encourage reading for English and history classes. Using websites like Quizlet for flashcards and Goodreads for reading can keep things interesting. 

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