The College Journey: What Students Should be Doing in Middle School to Prepare for College

  • Posted By: Celena Alduenda
  • June 9, 2020
The College Journey: What Students Should Be Doing in Middle School to Prepare for College

The college admissions process is one of the most important parts of your future, and one that you can start preparing for in middle school. To learn how, we spoke with Keith Wilkerson, Founder and Lead Teacher for College Thoughts. Keith has over 21 years of experience in the college placement field and has counseled more than 7,000 families about their educational options. Here is Keith’s advice on how to start preparing for college in middle school.

What should you be doing in 6th grade to prepare for college?

1. Read More! Reading Isn’t Optional.
Often, when speaking with parents, I hear them say that their child just doesn’t enjoy reading as though reading is a choice. I wonder what they would say if their child told them that he or she didn’t enjoy bathing. There are some things that are non-negotiable and reading is definitely one of them. High school will be a tremendous struggle for students who don’t develop strong fundamental reading skills.

2. Answer Questions Completely.
Text messaging has taught us how to answer questions with brevity, but in order to communicate effectively, students have to learn how to answer questions with all of the needed details. It’s tough to feel like you are interrogating a student just to get answers to basic questions. If someone asks if you play a sport, take the time to share which sport you play, how long you’ve been playing and something that you are looking forward to about the next season instead of forcing three additional questions to get that same information.

What should you be doing in 7th grade to prepare for college?

1. The Future is Now!
Preparing for statewide testing and a strong performance in 7th grade will shape the college journey. If you plan to apply for a competitive independent high school, a strong performance in 7th grade will determine which high schools you could attend, and the high school that you attend will, in large part, influence the colleges that you will consider. Even if you don’t plan to attend an independent school, future You will greatly appreciate the efforts that seventh-grade You put forward at this stage.

What should you be doing in 8th grade to prepare for college?

1. Prepare for High School. Transition Isn’t Easy.
Making the transition to high school is going to be difficult at times. Just because you are a strong student in your middle school program, that doesn’t automatically mean that you are going to hit the ground running when you get to high school. Taking a critical look at where you might be able to strengthen your skills—whether reviewing your algebra notes over the summer or taking some time to improve the quality of your writing—will help to make your adjustment more smooth.

2. Don’t Celebrate Too Soon!
When I played middle school basketball, my coach told us that people who celebrate scoring baskets often fail to actually win games. I know that you are proud of advancing from middle school to high school, but don’t celebrate too much. There are miles to go in your journey to college and you might do better to save the money and energy from a big middle school graduation party and invest it in your high school success. As former President Barack Obama once said, “You know, sometimes I'll go to an 8th-grade graduation and there's all that pomp and circumstance and gowns and flowers.... An 8th-grade education doesn't cut it today. Let's give them a handshake and tell them to get their butts back in the library!”

Want to learn what students should be doing in high school to prepare for college? Check out this post.

Keith Wilkerson is the Founder and Lead Teacher for CollegeThoughts, an organization with a student-minded team who is dedicated to demystifying the college application process, making the process more of a personal exploration than a stress-inducing enigma. A 1997 graduate of Princeton University, Keith holds a bachelor's degree in Religion with a certificate of proficiency in African-American Studies. Prior to launching this business, Keith served for 18 years as the Senior Program Manager for the Mid-Atlantic Region for A Better Chance, offering middle and high school students opportunities for private education. His responsibilities included overseeing recruitment, placement and support of A Better Chance participants in the Mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia as well as assisting in the design and planning of summer programming for A Better Chance Scholars. Keith also has worked with the College Advising Corps, serving as an Advising Manager, supervising and training a talented group of remote college advisers.

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