A middle school parent's college prep guide
You and your child need to start planning for college no later than middle school. Here are seven steps your child and family should take.
Building a college-going culture
Your child is growing up in a world where peer groups have powerful influence and technology offers powerful distractions. You, your parent group and your school have to work hard to send a message that planning for college is an effort that pays off. Here are some ideas from The College Ed Create a College-Going Culture Guide by the College Board:
- Invite financial aid officers from nearby colleges to talk about ways to pay for college.
- Invite college students or graduates to talk to students.
- Talk to your school about displaying a college of the week prominently at the school, using college pennants as decorations, asking staff members to wear sweatshirts from their alma maters.
- Arrange a college tour for your parent group and talk to the admissions staff.
- Talk to administrators about sending college information to parents regularly.
- Ask for donations of college brochures and guidebooks.
- Hold a career day, inviting representatives to talk about what they do and how they prepared for their careers.
Visit College Ed for more information on the program or resources.
By GreatSchools Staff
Most U.S. parents expect their kids to go to college, and most students have the same goal. But they are not necessarily taking the practical steps to get there.
A national survey released this year by Harris Interactive found that while 92% of seventh- and eighth-graders said they were likely to attend college, 68% said they had little or no information about which classes to take to prepare for it.
Counselors, colleges and organizations like the National Association for College Admission Counseling and ACT emphasize that parents should start planning for college no later than middle school. Their reasoning is simple:
- Your child needs strong preparation in middle school to take the high school classes that colleges require.
- You need to do your homework to make college affordable for your family. There are lots of options to cut college costs — scholarships, low-interest loans, work-study, spending the first two years at a community college — but it takes time to research them and get the information you need to meet application deadlines.
College planning is important for all families, whether parents attended college or not. Rose Fabiszak, director of the College Board's program called College Ed, notes, "The college process has changed, even from four years ago - the forms have changed, there are Web sites where your child can take a virtual tour of a college."
Here are seven steps you can take to jumpstart your planning:
Talk about college
As a parent, your expectations have a huge influence on what your child expects of herself, even if she doesn't want you to know it. You can help her envision her future at a time when the social anxieties and opportunities of middle school loom larger than life after high school. This doesn't mean having an "I expect you to go to Harvard" conversation. Talk to your child about her interests, how they might translate into a college major and career.
That's what the College Ed program does, working in partnership with schools and districts. In a series of lessons, students assess their interests and talents, match them to college majors and develop plans to reach their goals. "This is really an exploration of self," says Fabiszak.
There are resources on the Web to help you start exploring careers together with your child and get the conversation going. Several of them are mentioned in the GreatSchools article "Helping Your Child Connect School to Work."
It's not too early for you and your child to visit a college so she can begin to picture herself there. Fabiszak tells the story of her own daughter's early visits to an out-of-state college that sounded like a great match. It wasn't. The visit helped Fabiszak's daughter realize she wanted to stay closer to home, which she did, commuting to a college in her city.
"You have to find a place that's comfortable," Fabiszak said. "She changed her mind. Because we encouraged her early, she had a chance to see what fit."