How early is too early to start preparing for the college admissions process? It’s important to let kids be kids, but in the selective college admissions process, every move in high school counts – from the first day of freshman year to the last senior year exam. More and more families are beginning the college prep process in the eighth grade, aiming to set their students up for success at the start of high school.
Colleges look at all four years of high school grades, courses, activities, and more when evaluating applicants – not just records from junior and senior year like many families believe. By starting simple college preparation in the eighth grade, students are poised to have a strong start to their high school careers – something that can set them apart from other applicants when it comes time for colleges to decide whom to admit.
So what kind of college preparation should families consider while students are still in the eighth grade?
- Study Habits: Starting in eighth grade, students should learn how to manage their study schedules, homework deadlines, and other academic requirements. Staying organized is key, and developing good study habits like taking handwritten notes, reviewing notes every day before homework, and limiting distractions will help students prepare for the rigors of a high school load.
- Summer Experiences: How students spend their summers is important because it affords them the opportunity to explore different areas of interest or become more involved in something they are passionate about. Summer experiences should be fun and meaningful, but also serve a purpose. Students and parents should research experiences that relate to the student’s interest, like community service, pre-collegiate academic summer programs, or internships. Find summer experiences that help students deepen their interest in a certain area and make an impact.
- Identifying Interests: Having focused interests is very important when applying to college as institutions are looking to build a well-rounded class made up of specialists. Most students begin to identify and explore their interests during their freshman and sophomore years. Unfortunately, this can often lead to students hopping from one activity or interest to another – leaving them with little time later on to take on leadership positions or make an impact. Colleges want to see sustained and meaningful interest in just a few extracurriculars, so it is critical to identify interests early on. Beginning in eighth grade, students should start identifying and exploring interests through reading, research, and other activities; students should think about what really interests them and learn more about it. By doing this in eighth grade, students can have a good idea of what they are passionate about and what clubs or activities in high school meet those interests.
- High School Course Selection: Another one of the important application factors that colleges consider is the rigor of students’ course loads. Colleges want to see students taking increasingly difficult courses each year and performing well in them. Of course, at Brookwood most students take the same courses during their freshman and sophomore years. However, Advanced Placement classes are available at Brookwood School for those students who are willing to put forth the effort. It is important to seek advice early as to what courses are available.
The college admissions process is full of nuances and can be stressful for many families. By starting the process in the eighth grade, families can alleviate some of the stress associated with college preparation and set students up for success from the first day of high school. The peace of mind that comes with knowing you are on the right track from day one will help make the college application process smoother come senior year.