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HomeRoad to CollegePlanning for College

Ten ways to jump-start college planning

Help your child take the right steps in middle school to prepare for college.

Decisions your child makes as early as eighth grade can have a huge effect on his college career. They might affect how soon your child will go to college, what type of college he attends, and even whether he will go to college at all.

As a result, there can be a lot of pressure on students to do the necessary work to get into the college of their choice. As a parent, your support will be crucial through this time to help your child to make decisions that will lead to the college and career path that's most suitable for him. Below are some things that your child will need to do to get ready for his college planning — and some ways for you to help.

  1. Get involved. Getting ready for college isn't all work. Your child should find something she really likes doing, then dive into it. She will develop skills and be more appealing to colleges. Colleges like to have a diverse and motivated student body. Involvement in activities indicates your child has shown a commitment and taken on responsibility.
  2. Do the work. If your child expects to go to college later, he should expect to study and work hard now, and throughout his four years of high school.
  3. Take challenging courses. Colleges look at your child's grades, but also at how difficult her courses are. They want to see that she has challenged herself. Plus, if your child pursues advanced courses, such as AP, she may be able to get college credit.
  4. Get help. Is your child having trouble in a class? Many schools have peer tutors, students in upper grades who'll help him for free. Your child should talk to his teachers or counselors and let them know he wants extra help.
  5. Read. Your child should read at least 30 minutes every day, beyond study and homework. It's best for her to read what interests her — magazines, novels, etc. Your child's strength in reading will be essential when she takes the PSAT/NMSQT and SAT tests.
  6. Don't delay. Students take the PSAT/NMSQT in the junior year (or even in the sophomore year). So your child should take the most challenging schedule he can before high school. He should talk to his counselor to make sure he is taking the solid math and other courses that will get him ready.
  7. Get the college-bound facts. How will your child know all the right moves to get into college? She should ask someone who's done it. Your child should get to know her counselors. She may also want to ask a career planner at a local college, or a trusted teacher. Doing Web research can also be helpful.
  8. Provide family support. If you haven't been to college yourself, you may think you can't help your child. That's not true. You can talk to his counselors and help him stay on the right path. Your support will be important as he begins to make important decisions about his future.
  9. Seek mentors. Even though you are supportive of your child's ambitions, the encouragement of other adults who can lend their enthusiasm will help make sure your child succeeds. She might look to a counselor, a teacher, or someone else she trusts to help her develop her interests in a particular area.
  10. Confront personal roadblocks. High school can be a stressful time for students. If you child has a problem that's really getting in the way of schoolwork, try to sort it out together. Keep an open mind and a listening ear at the ready. Your child's counselor may also be able to help with advice, or simply to point your child to resources at school or in the community that can help.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

11/18/2009:
"The Site Is Nice "
09/1/2009:
"getting your child really for colleage is very hard some parent out of job and can aford spend the money for clothes for higer school"
10/2/2008:
"There are many other sites on the internet with additional information and tools. I noticed that Embark.com just added a check list for students going to college with links to many of these."
10/19/2007:
"It is never too early to get ready for college! I have talked about college when my boys were 5 or 6... we talked about how good grades are very important even in 1st grade.... my youngest has never gotten a B! He is a senior now 4.0 ranked #1.... it has always been important in our family to do your best no matter if it is a B or a C just try and then go over what you missed to try to learn it again. Now it is not only important to get an A to my son but he trys to be the best in the class....as he will probably do in his life as well"
09/7/2007:
"Many public libraries offer free test preparation online for the SAT, ACT, Achievement tests and Advanced Placement through a service called Learing Express. Check with your local library by going to www.publiclibraries.com ."
09/4/2007:
"Thank you for your wonderful suggestions. In addition to your list, I would also like to add that the preparation of the portfolio is very beneficial. The sooner one starts the portfolio, the more time one has to fine-tune it, enhance it, get feedback on it and improve it in time for college. In order to support such an effort, I set up the KIDS LOVE TO website series to showcase the achievements of children, thereby assisting with the porfolio preparation. I am launching this website series in early Fall 2007. The series includes websites for artists, writers, singers, musicians, dancers, actors, photographers and more. I would like to extend a special offer to your readers to take part in the launch. If you are interested, please let me know. Thank you for all your articles and newsletters. They are so beneficial. Best regards, Dahlia Benaroya, President, Dahlia Web Designs LLC, www.KidsLoveTo.com "
07/20/2007:
"What to do when a child shows no interest in anything in particular?"
07/3/2007:
"I found your website very helpful. My Granddaughter is going into the 2nd grade fall and is on a 3 & 4 grade reading level and also spelling. She reads lots of books. At the end of the school year in 2006, she got awards for reading over 70 books. She is already talking about college some day. Her CRCT test scores were: Reading 875, math-spelling-art & language all 835. She overachieved in all of her subjects and can read anything from any book, newspaper, etc without help with words also she spells anything you ask her to spell.I may be overreacting, but websites like this is so good for her. Thank you for your time Gramma, CARTERSVILLE, GA "
06/20/2007:
"Thanks for the info, even if my child hasn't finished elementary school. I will now know what to do when the time is right to get her on the right path. So she doesn't turn out like i did, not knowing what to do next because i had poor school counselors, who didn't help me much. Thanks again!"
05/11/2007:
"I found your info very helful though i live in st petersburg florida it still helped as i have daughters in 10th and 11th grade "
09/28/2006:
"THANKS! I appreciate all the info you have compiled here and am looking forward to updates in the future. Making decisions for my children on college is not easy, it is best to get the facts early on."
09/27/2006:
"Very interesting and helpful. A useful tool to show my daughter that she needs to be involved now because she definately wants to go to college."
09/27/2006:
"I FOUND THIS ARTICLE EXTREMELY HELPFUL.. I HAVE A TEN YEAR OLD ABOUT TO FINISH ELEMENTARY SCHOOL AND SINCE I DIDN'T HAVE ALL THE INFORMATION AND HELP FOR PERSUING COLLEGE.. I FEEL VERY STRONG ABOUT HER FUTURE AND WANT TO HELP AS MUCH AS I CAN. SO WHEN IT COMES TO IT, I'LL BE WELL INFORMED AND READY TO HELP HER, SO SHE CAN BE WELL PREPARED FOR COLLEGE. THANK YOU AND KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK. WITH THESE ARTILCES. "
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