The Importance of Early College Preparation
The college process can feel overwhelming, especially when students get a late start. From compiling a best-fit list to writing essays, there are many steps in the college application process. Consequently, we always encourage students to start early and build executive functioning skills that will serve them throughout college and beyond. While high school is undoubtedly a crucial time, there are several steps students and families can take to start preparing long before ninth grade.
Think Marathon, Not Sprint
Families should keep in mind that the college process is a marathon, not a sprint. Instead of waiting until junior year to begin test preparation and touring, it’s often best to build up to these components of the admissions process. While students in middle school probably won’t be drafting their personal statements, there is still work that can be done to set students up for success. Students should be encouraged to be their authentic selves and to start developing a love of learning. From independent reading to exploring topics that interest them, build the foundation for a strong academic career by encouraging curiosity.
Prioritize Personal Fit
In college admissions, we often discuss the idea of best-fit colleges, or schools that align with your students’ personal, social, and academic needs. As opposed to focusing on “name brand” colleges that are known for their selectivity, students should prioritize identifying colleges where they feel like they can thrive. This concept of personal fit isn’t limited to college admissions; the same principles apply to choosing a middle school or high school. It can often be helpful to work with a school placement counselor to determine the type of academic environment that best aligns with your students’ needs and goals.
Build Self Reliance and Independence
Students shouldn’t wait until high school to start building strong study habits. Since admissions officer review every year on a students’ high school transcript, it’s important to make sure students are set up for academic success on day one of high school. By middle school, families should start to encourage their students to become more self-reliant and practice time management skills. This can include building out a calendar to stay on top of homework deadlines and setting aside time for weekly study sessions. Additionally, students should begin building their own relationships with their teachers and get in the habit of reaching out to instructors when they have questions or need clarification.
Start Exploring Passions
In addition to building academic skills, students should get a head-start on exploring their interests and passions. Admissions officers are looking for applicants who have “specialized” in a small handful of activities that they are truly passionate about. Even before high school, students can begin discovering the fields that interest them most. Encourage students to try a variety of different activities that relate to their passions. For example, a student who loves art may wish to explore photography, painting, and sculpture classes to get a sense of which medium they might choose to further explore throughout high school and beyond.
While there are certainly many steps within the college admissions process, that doesn’t mean students and families need to feel overwhelmed. In fact, the college admissions process can be an exciting period of self discovery, especially if students and families begin well in advance. If you’re looking to get a head-start on college admissions and develop executive functioning skills, our team of experts can provide guidance throughout your journey.