College Prep in Middle School

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Independent College Consultant, Marie Morris, says middle school is a great time to start preparing our kids for college. She stopped by with some helpful tips. For more tips from Marie, check out her blog.

Middle School is far too early to match that love of computer coding with an activity to hopefully gain acceptance to MIT. But it is not too soon to develop habits for high school success!

“Our job as parents is to put ourselves out of a job”, according to Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of How to Raise an Adult. “Concierge parenting,” catering to kids’ needs, doing things they are capable of doing, and tackling tricky situations teaches children that they can’t do things for themselves.

1. Help your child become independent.

I’m not saying have them open and maintain a checking account, but they could be responsible for waking themselves up in the morning, making their lunch, organizing their assignments and schedule.

Beyond loving our children unconditionally, we teach them life skills that will eventually put us out of a job. Part of that is giving children household responsibilities and teaching them the feeling of being useful and how to contribute to a community. Children who have the skills and the confidence to be self-sufficient will be happier and more successful adults.

2. Encourage your child to approach their teachers with concerns or questions.

If your child is struggling in a class or with an assignment, resist the urge to contact the teacher yourself. Instead, encourage your child to contact the teacher themself, and let them be empowered by learning to be their own advocate, a big life lesson! “When we do their work for them it sends the message, “I don’t think you can do this without me.”

Likewise, middle school can be a brutal time socially. Role play with your child to solve personal problems and resist “fixing” things. Self-advocacy is a powerful thing and a life skill.

3. Help your child find their purpose.

Celebrate the child they are, and maximize their strengths. Help them to do more of what they enjoy and are naturally good at.

Avoid the idea that finding the cure for cancer will ensure admission into college. What does your child find interesting? Help them to pursue that, whether it's cooking, caring for the neighborhood pets, or scientific research. Everyone loves a passionate kid and it shows. The most successful, fulfilled people are those who maximize their strengths.

4. Help your child develop a love of learning.

Grades are always important and a sincere interest in learning fuels that. What is your child curious about academically? Ask them to explain what they love about history or science and perhaps offer to find a way to supplement what is happening in the classroom. Don’t tie academic enjoyment to grades, when the interest is there, the grades will follow. Notice who your child is, what they are good at and what they love. Are they a people person? Do they enjoy solving problems? Are they idealistic or practical? Your child has a great chance of living a meaningful and purposeful life at the intersection of what they’re good at, what they love and what they value.

5. Relax

Let your kids be kids. Let them play and hang out with their friends and maybe even goof off a little.

Much of the information you hear about kids being rejected from college is exaggerated. There are more than 2,000 colleges in the country and all but about 100 of them have plenty of room. Nice kids who work hard (even if they aren't "A" students) still get into plenty of colleges. They don't need to spend all their time maximizing strengths, fixing weaknesses and molding themselves into future college students. When your student is 12, 13 or 14, you're not going to make a mistake that will keep your child out of college someday. So relax, and encourage your kids to do the same.