To navigate life successfully, you must know where you want to go and then plot a way to get there. Sounds straightforward enough! However, when a student is 13 or 14 and just trying to adjust to high school, the thought of creating a plan to apply to college is understandably not on his or her radar. But it should be on yours. In order to make the most of the process and not become overwhelmed later, college planning should start as early as possible.
Right now your 8th grade student is probably planning his or her schedule for the 9th grade, and that schedule must be on course track. Hopefully, your student’s guidance counselor will make sure (s)he has scheduled a foreign language, English, math (algebra is recommended), history, science (biology is recommended). As an elective, your student should consider keyboarding or technology, which will be very helpful as the education continues. By staying on the required course track now, your child will be in a position for the more difficult AP classes later. The academic rigor of the high school courses completed is an important factor in the college admissions decision.
If your child is already feeling a bit overwhelmed by school work, (s)he may need help with study skills, and now is the time to deal with that issue. The work will only get more challenging in high school, and time management and organization skills can be the difference between frustration and success. If your child needs help in this area, you might consider bringing in a tutor who specializes in teaching organization and study skills. Getting a routine in place and learning how to manage all the scholastic demands is crucial. This will pay dividends in both high school and college.
Ideally, a student should start prepping for the SAT by the 8th grade. The best preparation for the SAT is reading, reading, reading. Getting your child to pick up a book and read is the absolute best preparation your child can have for high school, college, and of course, the SAT. You might choose to read the same book and discuss it with your student.
You might even take it a step further and have the whole family participate in vocabulary building by making a game of learning one new word a day. Check out websites such as Dictionary.com that will email you a new word a day.
Learning to write well is equally important and will serve your child throughout high school, college, and into his career. Good analytical writing is paramount to reading comprehension, and yet in an education world being driven by test results, learning to write properly is often given short shrift. Universities are finding that a majority of incoming freshmen don’t have adequate writing skills. Give your child a leg up by using the summer between 8th and 9th grade to learn to write well. Increasing writing skills is a key to improving grades across the board.
By 8th grade your child should be exploring and becoming interested in extra curricular activities. More important, your child should start to hone in on one or two specific activities that (s)he truly enjoys and in which they can excel. Colleges are looking for well-rounded students, students who will contribute to the college community. Admissions directors will tell you they prefer to see one specific extracurricular that the student is passionate about rather than six clubs joined in the junior year to fill a resume.
Starting in the 9th grade your student’s grades will count toward his or her GPA, and will be on the transcript sent to the colleges. Your child should be able to hit the ground running in the 9th grade and not be limping from concepts missed in the 8th grade. If your child is not strong in math, or any subject at this point, it would serve them well to be tutored to get on track.
“Finish with a flourish” is a saying in our household and has given all of our children the impetus to end the year on a high note. There are four months left to this school year to bring up those grades. Help your child end it on a high note and be ready for the challenges to come.