College Counseling in Middle School? Yes.
by Kathy de Jong, Independent Educational Consultant
It’s hard to know the right time to engage with a college coach/counselor. Some parents are overly eager, while others take a hands-off approach only to realize too late that their student is ill equipt to manage the college application process. So when should parents new to the college prep and application process get the family engaged in discussions with a professional? The answer may be middle school.
First, it’s important to know that most counselors at middle schools are not in a position to talk in-depth about college and career planning. An independent educational consultant can be a valuable resource. The amount of advising with an independent counselor will probably be limited to a meeting or two during the school year; There is no need for parents to exhibit anxiety or create it in their children at this point. Anxiety is a huge problem with high school students right now. A good advisor will downplay “getting into a good college” and emphasize a healthy discussion about the student developing their strengths and interests while informing parents about the college admissions process. Here are some middle school situations where you may want to discuss college planning with an independent college coach.
Your 8th-grade child is preparing to select a high school and 9th-grade courses.
Your middle school counselor or teachers may be able to provide some insights about unique programs at local high schools and whether your child may be a good fit. However, particularly in public middle schools, there is not much communication about how the decisions you make for 9th-grade classes drives a student’s ability to do honors or Advanced Placement (AP) courses down the road. A local college counselor can be helpful with understanding the local high schools, curriculum options, special programs like dual enrollment, and prerequisites for junior and senior year courses. A counselor can help you understand the differences between a vocational, military, and college-bound high school experience.
Neither parent attended a 4-year college in the United States
The college admissions process in the United States can be overwhelmingly complicated, particularly if the parents have never attended college in the US. It may be helpful to find a consultant to walk you through “what you need to know”, how colleges evaluate applicants, and the timeline for preparation, testing, and applications.
Your child is on or considered for an accelerated, gifted, or advanced educational path going into 6th or 7th grade.
Making the decision to start taking advanced math, science, and foreign language in middle school is often the first step toward college prep for many students. These decisions should be based on a long-term strategy and the child’s ability to handle the additional rigor now and in high school. Remember, much of the college admissions process is about the student’s GPA, so parents and students should not take the decision on advanced courses lightly. Depending on the student and whether they have a specific career or educational goal in mind, discussions with a professional about a course plan from middle through high school may be a wise decision.
Your child has an interest in a college major that may require a portfolio, audition, or very specific high school preparation and classes when applying.
Programs in the performing arts (music, dance, or musical theater), visual arts (art, graphic or interior design, animation/video games) or specialized/competitive programs such as architecture or engineering often require years of preparation to build a compelling college application. While many students are not sure what major they want to pursue as early as 7th or 8th grade, it may help to work with a professional to identify opportunities to dig into their interests and assess their talent/aptitude in middle school. Students may want to select a specific high school based on their interests.
You’re a parent that needs a high-level plan and a basic understanding of the process.
Information is power, right? Information can help parents alleviate some of their own anxiety about the college process, so why not get some help? Many independent college counselors offer presentations, webinars or private meetings to give parents the basics of the college admissions process and the current college admissions landscape; it is much different now.
Ready to start the discussion? College in 3-2-1 is ready to help. We offer a one-time advising session for middle school students, and there is no further obligation or pressure to purchase. Schedule the appropriate grade-level meeting today using this Calendly link. https://calendly.com/collegein321
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College in 3-2-1 provides comprehensive college preparation services for high school students including high school course selection, college research and list development, application assistance, essay consultation, and financial aid, extra-curricular, and summer enrichment counseling. Learn more here.
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