Is Middle School Too Early to Start Preparing for College?

This opinion piece was written by BE Smart Contributor Chelsea L. Dixon, M.S., M.A.T. For more about the author, see her bio at the end of this post.

In today’s increasingly technological world, more and more companies require their workers to possess diverse skill sets that are typically not developed solely by earning a high school diploma. There’s no doubt that for most people a college degree opens doors to greater opportunities.

But is middle school too early to start preparing for college?

[Related: These Organizations Make Sure Kids Not Only Go to College But Graduate]

Some people feel that it is. They believe that requiring children in sixth, seventh, or even eighth grade, to read extra books and study on weekends even if they have no homework, as some parents do, puts unnecessary pressure on these students. They also believe that involving children in numerous extracurricular activities like singing or acting, karate, and soccer, all at the same time, is too stressful.

Are such parents putting too many demands on their children? Should they just let them enjoy being kids?

Although some parents do go overboard, I do not believe that middle school is too early to start preparing for college. Early preparation–and some could argue that middle school is not early–is a positive thing. Reading extra books, magazines, and newspapers for fun helps to develop and expand a middle school student’s vocabulary, especially if he looks up the definitions of words he doesn’t understand. If this practice continues, the student’s vocabulary will expand, which will definitely come in handy when taking the SAT or ACT exams.

Participating in a variety of extracurricular school and community activities helps the middle school student figure out, sooner rather than later, the things she may be interested in. Granted, she may develop different interests by the time she gets to high school; however, if the student likes acting, why not have her join a local community theater group? If sports, why not encourage her to play on a club, travel, or all-star team? If STEM, why not get involved in a local STEM or FIRST Robotics group? Colleges and universities like standout students that are well-rounded, because such well-roundedness indicates broad interests and diverse capabilities, in addition to academic strength.

Listed below are three additional ways students can begin to get on the pathway to college during their middle school years:

Speaking Up

The sooner young people learn to speak up and ask questions, the sooner they develop a sense of their own agency. Students who get into the habit of speaking up when they don’t understand a concept are more likely to take ownership of their learning. Teachers are there to help, making middle school a great time to learn to speak up and be assertive.

Continue reading on the next page…