Middle school is a great time for students to start thinking about and discussing their plans after high school. It may feel like your child just headed off to the first day of school, but time passes quickly and now is the time to plan for high school and beyond.
Here are eight ways to start a conversation with your student.
1. Connect current interests.
Observe the things your child enjoys and discuss how these activities translate into college majors and careers. Even if you are sure your child won’t end up as a chef, talking about cooking for a living helps your student think about the connection between interests and careers. Just remember that as your child matures, his or her interests will change as well.
2. Explore career possibilities.
Your student might have some idea of what you do for a living and is likely familiar with several common jobs like teacher, police officer, doctor and lawyer. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Talk about what people you work with do, as well as the careers of extended family members, friends and acquaintances. Help your student see the nuances between different careers and how people got to the point where they are today.
3. Define "college."
What do you and your student think of when you hear the word "college"? Explore the different types of postsecondary options and the types of careers associated with them to help your child understand their future choices. Visiting different campuses can help.
4. Stress the importance of academic habits.
Middle school grades and test scores usually don’t count for college admission considerations, but now is the time to set good habits and define expectations. High school course rigor and grades, along with standardized test scores, play a major role in college admissions. Set the stage now by talking about what’s happening at school and how to improve.
5. Make a financial plan.
Discuss the current and projected future cost of college and what that means for your family. If you expect your student to work in high school or college to help offset costs, talk about that now. In addition, let your student know what kind of college savings or funding he or she can expect from the family. This will help clarify the college choice down the road.
6. Talk about academic options.
If your student performs well in middle school, there may be an opportunity to advance in coursework. Taking high school classes in middle school frees up time for more advanced classes, and even classes that count for college credit, in high school. In addition, standardized test scores may help your student qualify for substantial merit-based scholarships for college.
7. Clarify expectations.
Some families assume their children will attend college; others assume their children won’t. Where does your family fall on this scale and how does that fit with your student’s own ideas? Encourage your child to think in terms of financial and personal goals and how college affects those.
8. Share your own experience.
Discuss your favorite and least favorite aspects of your own education and what you would do differently. Share how the choices you made or the situations you were in affected what came after.