Admit it: As a middle school parent, your life is an amalgamation of exploding backpacks, hectic schedules and tumultuous hormones. Education and the middle schooler is unique territory that requires a patient and innovative educator, but it often has parents combatting the time with fear and trembling. Many middle school parents inquire about the validity of college counseling with middle school students and often expand that the true stakes of college admissions is light years in the future.
Crisp Consulting + Coaching argues that the middle school years are foundation in preparing the path to college. According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, NACAC, middle school is a time to build critical skills needed for college admissions success. Although admissions officers will not scrutinize middle school grades and activities, it is important to develop foundational skills that will be evident throughout the students high school and college career. Crisp Consulting + Coaching would like to offer suggestions for preparing your middle schooler for the path to college.
Connect with the school. Parents need to be supportive participants in their child’s academic and social life. Make a connection with your child’s teachers and counselors, asking about the details of the programs being offered. “We always say, consult the school counselor, even in 6th grade,” says Shanda Ivory, Director of Communications for the National Association for College Admission Counseling. Be receptive to positive news and challenges in your child’s life. Your positive reaction to both situations will help your child be resilient in all settings.
Connect with critical challenges. All children should be involved in a rigorous curriculum that centers around English, history, math and science. In addition, the middle school student should supplement these courses with foreign language studies and foundational studies in fine or performing arts. Examine the math and English curricula as advanced math will be needed for success in high school AP courses and English should include grammar, extensive writing and literature.
Connect with a supportive culture. Students are more successful in an organized environment with established study routines. Invest in a calendar or planner, and utilize this resource as a family to track homework assignments, upcoming tests, project due dates, sporting events, chores and family outings. Make regular family visits to your local library, as this will familiarize your child with its many resources and establish a reading culture. Reading is critical to many avenues of success, especially improving verbal scores on the SAT.
Connect with your child. Middle school students can be an emotional explosion that seems to recoil parents in the opposite direction. Parents are critical in this stage of development. Intentionally craft family activities that are enjoyable and establish routines. Create meal times where the family enjoys dialogue and laughter. The preparation and clean-up of these meals should involve the whole family where everyone has an important job and feels like their contribution is beneficial. Spend time participating in activities you both enjoy, talk and listen over meals and ask plenty of nonjudgmental questions. Encourage your child to dream and explore their future. With these conversations, set no limits and support your child in the planning and investigation of their ideas. These plans may even involve a short day trip to a nearby college with an arboretum or museum observatory. Importantly, allow your child to make mistakes, experience the consequence of the mistake and suspend your judgement.
In today’s complex world, parents play an invaluable role in helping kids choose wisely while focusing on their future. “The world today,” says Coles, “is very different from the world 25 years ago. Opportunities to earn a living wage and participate fully in society requires higher levels of literacy—in both math and language—than before. There is so much more information…This isn’t just about getting into Harvard, it’s about reaching your dreams in real life.”
Brian D. Crisp is an independent educational consultant with Crisp Consulting + Coaching who works with families in Asheville, Charleston, Raleigh-Durham and Savannah to optimize and realize their unique educational fit and admission success. As a former professor, administrator, and teacher, Brian has the knowledge and skills to counsel families in all aspects of educational planning.