Jump Start: College Planning for Middle School Students and Their Families

By on March 10, 2018

It is never too early to start planning for college. The earlier you begin planning for or thinking about college admissions, the better chance you have a putting yourself in prime position when it comes to applications and tuition expenses. Middle school and junior high is an excellent time to begin thinking about the type of high school subjects and programs you want to take to start preparing for college

Start preparing a middle school student for college by encouraging them to take their education seriously, become a well-rounded student with activities outside of school, and have discussions as a family or with school counselors for specific advice.

If you have a student starting middle school or preparing for high school, sit down with them and go over this checklist of ways students and their parents can set the academic and financial foundation for college. Then speak with your trusted academic and financial advisors to make a plan of action which you can all pursue together.

10 College Prep Tips for Middle School Students and Parents

6 Steps for Students

The classes you take in middle school or junior high will be the foundation for courses that you take in high school. That means paying attention in classes, doing your homework carefully, and applying yourself while still having fun.

  1. Take School Seriously. Work hard, learn as much as you can and get in the habit of completing your homework on time. The better you do in school and the more you learn, the easier it will be when you get to high school or college. And though colleges may not be looking at your grades from these years, a good GPA or grades in advanced classes will aid in becoming eligible for pre-college courses in high school.
  2. Read, Read, Read. The more you read the more you can improve your writing, reading and critical thinking abilities. Read any book magazine or newspaper which interests you. You will improve your ability to read and comprehend material so you are able to meet the demands of middle school, and the better you’ll do on college admission tests such as the ACT and SAT.
  3. Enroll in Challenging Courses. Get on an academic path that prepares you for high school honors classes. The more admissions requirements you can fulfill prior to enrolling in college, the better chance you have at saving a year’s college tuition and time spent in core classes at university. Check with your local public university or school counselor to get an idea of which classes are required for entrance into college and start taking your prerequisites as soon as possible. (Note: Most colleges require students to take foreign language. By starting early and taking AP language exams in high school you can potentially satisfy 2 years of require language study in college.)
  4. Get Involved in Extracurricular Activities and/or Sports. Join a sports team, participate in academic and recreational clubs, learn a musical instrument or run for student council. Try out different types of activities or stay with the same things for years – this is your chance to learn more about your own interests while balancing school and after-school activities.
  5. Volunteer. Be active and helpful in your community – whether it’s with the Scouts, a church group, or with a non-profit organization – volunteering is another extracurricular activity highly encouraged by college admissions analysts. In addition, volunteering can make you eligible for certain scholarships, not to mention you get to feel good about your contribution in the end.
  6. Get a Job. You could shovel snow, mow lawns, babysit, tutor, walk dogs, help a parent out f they run a small business or coach younger athletes – any part-time job will help you make extra spending money and show your work ethic. Consider putting some money aside in your own college savings account. And ask you parents to check your state’s tax commission to see how much money you can make before you have to pay taxes.

4 Steps for Parents to Get Involved in College Planning

Help you child envision their future beyond the social anxieties of middle school. Set out reasonable expectations for them to meet and support them in their choices along the way. And get help whenever possible – college planning has evolved and you may need the advice of expert counselors or financial advisors to ensure your student is prepared for high school and college.

  1. Talk with Your Student and School Counselors. Talk to your child about your expectations and their desires for college in the future. Schedule regular meetings with your child’s school counselor to discuss their future. And help your child choose the classes that will put them on the path to reach their long-term academic goals.
  2. Save, Save, Save. If you haven’t already, speak with a trusted financial advisor to start saving for your student’s college tuition. Financial aid is available for most families, however the amount your child will receive is directly related to your expected family contribution (EFC). There are numerous vehicles and financial products which will help you save: CDs, regular savings accounts, 529 plans, life insurance, annuities and more. Plan diligently since the less money you have to borrow, the less your student is responsible for paying back after college.
  3. Help Your Student Improve Study Skills. Your child will need time-management, organizational and study skills to succeed in high school and college. Get involved and meet your child’s teachers to be kept up to date about any changes in your child’s school work or behavior. Review your child’s standardized test results and grades with their counselor to identify strengths and weaknesses, then discuss your child’s interests to see if there are electives and extracurricular activities that will help him develop his talents. Help your child dedicate a set amount of time for completing homework, and make sure their activities do not affect their studying time or grades.
  4. Start Checking Out Colleges. Middle school is an excellent time for you and your child to visit a local college or their ideal university so they can get an idea of what life will be like if they succeed in school. Many colleges will allow you to take a tour of campus and provide valuable admissions materials to help you and your student plan for the future.

Your child will need to satisfy more than the basic high school graduation requirements to be prepared for college admissions. Help college become a part of your child’s consciousness, part of their goals, part of their life plan, and part of their future. Start planning for college early in middle school.

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About Amanda Jensen

FSN college advice columnist - Amanda gives parents and students knowledgeable advice on college planning, tuition financing and scholarships. With up to date and accessible information covering everything from personal finances to federal government policies, she is determined to make the college experience a painless one for all party's involved. You can find Amanda on !

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