We are often asked if middle school is too early to start thinking about college admissions. Though some would argue that thinking about college while in middle school could lead to additional stress for students, we would argue that the earlier students start thinking ahead, the less stressful the process will be. For example, forecasting out math and science tracks ahead of time means that you can still do something about level of course rigor early on. It is more stressful to find out in 11th grade that you have no chance of competing in the top college admissions pool because you didn’t accelerate in math back when you could have in 6th grade through an honors track.
On the extracurricular side, keep in mind that most talents kids develop in high school start in elementary or middle school. Few kids pick up the trombone in 9th grade and become gifted musicians out of the blue. Talents like art, singing, instrumental prowess tend to start in elementary or middle school. Same could be said about math competitions, science fairs or athletic prowess.
Any athlete knows that starting early with skill building and fitting in your “10,000 hours” is what helps kids stand out later and develop expertise.
HEAD START ON HIGH SCHOOL
“How can my kids in 7th and 8th grade get a head start on high school?” is another question we are asked day in and day out.
The most important track at most high schools is math and science, even if a student’s primary interests are in the humanities. Students should figure out how to jump ahead a year or two in math/science by taking courses like Pre-Algebra and Algebra online through places like Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth or Northwestern’s CTD. Likewise, for science – some high schools let students skip Earth Science and jump to Honors Biology in 9th grade. Many of our advanced students have been accelerating in math for years.
Let us break it down for you. Here are our top tips for leveraging your time in middle school to set yourself up for high school success.
TOP TIPS TO MAXIMIZE MIDDLE SCHOOL
- Take extra math and science courses so that you can aim to reach a higher math level like Algebra II/Trig by 9th grade or even Pre-Calculus. For science, aim to jump over courses like Earth Science so you can reach Honors Biology if your school offers it.
- Read an hour a day from higher level books and magazines like The Atlantic, Time, Scientific American, National Geographic, and The Concord Review so you build up your reading skills. In the long run, reading is the best way to improve your academic performance. Work with us to get your personalized reading lists grade by grade and be a part of our unique vocabulary program.
- Get involved in activities/sports/music/hobbies so that you can carry this leadership and skill set with you to high school.
- Be active in your classes, get to know your teachers as these teachers often communicate with high school teachers and recommend kids who stand out for honors track.
- Get organized – keep a whiteboard and map out assignments. Start an assignment notebook vs only using technology. Make early habits that will set you up for success.
- Take a “real” SAT before high school to get an idea of where you stand. Any standardized tests you take while in 7th or 8th grade do NOT go on your permanent record so you can get a good baseline score and address any weak areas.
- Get inspired and read about other kids doing extraordinary things. We love the documentary, I Am Greta, about Greta Thunberg as she launches a global movement on climate change. What do you care about?
- Learn to code. Even if you aren’t a computer science kid, coding is something even business school applicants are required to have. Take a coding class during the summer. And, if you love to play video games, learn to create video games.