Getting prepared for college is a natural progression when you are in high school, but what about middle school? I get the question all the time, “When is a good time to start preparing for college?” My answer is always, “Right now.”
As a school principal, my kindergarten teachers were already starting the kids on career exploration. Every year when the fire engine came and the crew would talk to the children about the role of the fireman and allow them to explore the truck, they planted the seeds of career awareness. When Victoria’s dad would come and present a cooking demonstration to the 4th grade class as a chef from the Culinary Institute, he planted the seeds of career awareness. And when Junior Achievement came and presented to the sixth grade students about banking, finance and investments, they planted the seeds of career awareness.
The timeline of preparing for college actually begins long before most people are ever aware of the impact. It is only when the senior year is staring them square in the face and the realization of making a decision is looming that they bring it forward in their conscious thought processes. But by then, many opportunities have already slipped by them. Grades may not be high enough, perhaps the rigor of the courses wasn’t as strong as it could have been, or the involvement in community service was minimal in comparison to the other students submitting the same applications. Middle school does count! For some students, their grades at the end of 8th grade establish their eligibility to play 1st semester in high school. The level of courses you take in 8th grade will create a pattern for your next four years. Are they challenging enough for you to match the goals you have when you think about universities and career paths?
The earlier you bring the awareness into conscious thought, the better. It is not that you have to wake up each day as a middle school student and say, “What am I doing for college today?” Rather, family dinner conversations can take on some career oriented topics. The employment rate that got posted today, a class at school that is a favorite and why, a family trip that is coming up and all of the occupations that you will encounter on that excursion are excellent family dinner topics. The more exposure to career options and exploration a child can have in formative years, the more prepared they will be to make decisions about their own career path. The more discussions you have as a family about the importance of setting goals and challenging one’s self, the better.
It’s never too early to start planting the seeds and cultivating a remarkable harvest, that career path that provides a lifetime of joy, satisfaction and reward.