Jill Haley: Middle school & college | TheUnion.com

Jill Haley: Middle school & college

Jill Haley
Columnist

Photo for The Union John Hart

Is middle school too soon to start thinking of college?

Don't panic yet! Middle school is not the time to begin stressing on which college to attend or filling out applications. But it can be the time to help students acquire skills that will help them when the time does come.

According to Nevada County author Elizabeth Dayton, one of the greatest indicators of whether a student attends college is spending time together as a family. This can include family meals, reading together, shared chores, and family celebrations.

Lift them up

When parents support their children's interests and get involved in their social and academic lives, children are far more likely to attend college.

Help your child to pursue their passions. Provide an enriching environment through access to classes, books and computers.

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Not all kids want to take violin lessons or learn Mandarin. Almost any extra-curricular activity can be beneficial if a student is passionate and invested in the activity.

Encourage your child to read for pleasure. A students' ability to read well is associated with greater academic performance and college success.

While many parents are finding this a challenge, with limited time and the competition from television and computer games, carving out time during the day to read has great benefits.

Let students pick reading material that interests them, even comic books increase comprehensive skills. If you have a sports enthusiast in the family get a subscription to Sports Illustrated, ESPN or check out autobiographies of famous athletes from the local library.

Reading for pleasure is correlated with higher scores on college admissions tests, and will help prepare students for rigorous high school courses.

Screen time

There is also increasing evidence that turning off electronics in favor of a book can decrease stress levels and lead to a better night's sleep. We should all support the idea of putting down our phones and electronic devices and picking up a good book.

Help your student to develop good study habits by providing a designated space in your home or their bedroom. Limit the use of computer games, phones or social media activity until after homework is completed.

Knowing how to communicate with teachers and school staff when an issue arises is important. Being a self-advocate is a skill that will benefit students once they begin high school. Parents who feel they need to fix everything for their kids are missing the mark, especially when the students are capable to do it on their own.

Parents concerned about paying for college can begin educating themselves about the process while still in middle school.

A good place to begin is the FAFSA.ed.gov website, where the FAFSA4caster allows them to get an estimate of what they might be expected to pay for college based on their income and assets.

While it is still too early to think about putting together a college list or touring colleges, there is some things that you can do to help middle-school students prepare for the time when they do.

Jill Haley is a retired high school counselor who now works as an independent college counselor. She can be reached at http://www.getyouintocollege.com or jillncca@gmail.com.