According to experts, parents should start talking about college during the child’s middle school or if not earlier. It’s usually around junior and senior years of high school when most parents and college-bound students are starting to think about college. Between SATs and ACTs, application essays and campus visits, the college submission process is indeed time consuming and can also be stress inducing to all involved.
To try and ensure that the time prior to college is less stressful start talking with your children about college early on. We’ve got some tips on what to talk about with your child depending on their age.
Elementary school: A holistic approach to understanding colleges might begin as early as elementary school. This period is ideal to drop by different local college campuses for sporting events, camps and other activities that would induce the excitement of your child. Get him or her involved with some art making, going to science museums and cultural events.
A gradual introduction to college can be done through sharing your college experience with them. Letting them be exposed early is good so that they can be thinking about what they want to achieve in the future.
Middle school: The college conversation should begin to ramp up once your student enters eighth grade, recommends John Briggs, community director at RSC, Your College Prep Expert, a college and career counseling company. “We find that if we work with students then, we’re better able to position them academically and financially for college,” he says.
When talking to your child about getting into college don’t forget to discuss the financial considerations, this will inform them that going to College is something that needs to be planned and budgeted for. At this stage you may also discuss scholarships and options for obtaining them. This can give your middle-schooler something to aim for and achieve.
High school: In your student’s high school years, earning good grades, performing well on SAT tests, and staying focused on studies is important—but shouldn’t eclipse college conversations, O’Connor says.
“Many parents who are focused solely on test prep and strong grades are doing that in the best interest of their child, but they have to take a step back and consider the big picture,” he says.
With college admissions offices increasingly looking for extracurricular activities, leadership skills, and ambition, “Great grades and test scores are really only part of the picture,” O’Connor says. “If you focus too much on [those factors], you lose quality as you gain quantity.”
If at this stage your child doesn’t have any idea about college don’t panic but use the time to research programs and other matters regarding what is required to get into College and what they would like to achieve from attending College. This includes lists of universities, courses offered, possible dorms or houses to stay with, possible scholarships offered and all other significant subjects.
“It’s never too late to get started,” Rambo notes. “It’s just a more pleasant process if you get started earlier.” Your future awaits you!