College Prep at Any Age

Getting into college is getting harder.
Admission standards are strict and competition is stiff. But preparing your
child for college doesn’t have to be stressful, if you start early. Studio 5
Contributor, Amanda Grow, has tips on preparing your child for college at
any age.

Young Children (10 and younger)

· Help your child begin to form an academic identity

Your child will someday need to choose a college major and career path. The
seeds of who your child will eventually become will start to become evident in
early childhood. Help your child begin to form their individual academic
identity early by identifying their natural strengths and talents.

A few questions to ask yourself as you begin this process:

Is your child a logical or abstract thinker?

Is your child highly verbal?

Is your child good at memorizing?

Is your child especially creative?

Does your child have strong social skills?

Compliments about your child’s natural talents must be sincere…praise them
on everything they work hard to do, but save discussions of their natural
talents for the right moment after you’ve noticed a strong pattern of a
particular trait.

An academic identity should not be dichotomous. It doesn’t have to be ‘I’m
good at reading and bad at math.” It should be more like, “I am good at
math, but I have a special talent in reading.”

· Praise efforts, not intelligence

Always encourage your child by praising their efforts. A series of studies by
Stanford Professor of Psychology Carol Dweck found that children who were
praised specifically on their intellect hesitated to engage in challenging
activities in school because they were afraid of making mistakes. Dweck
wrote, “children who were overly concerned with their intelligence…were the
vulnerable ones.” (

In contrast, children who were praised on their efforts, rather than their
intellect, were more willing to take on challenges and eventually
outperformed their counterparts.

Help your child develop a “growth mindset.” Help them understand that
persistence and hard work are the important traits for success in the long

Middle School (ages 10-14)

· Spend some time on Campus

Colleges and Universities offer a variety of activities that are open to the
public including concerts, sporting events, lectures, and exhibits. Let your
child be inspired by the rich variety of learning experiences associated with
higher education. Get your child involved in age appropriate activities
offered by your local college or university.

Consider visiting an out-of-town university while on a family vacation.
Universities are usually happy to set up a free campus tour if you contact
them in advance.

Don’t let this be a stressful experience. Gauge their maturity and interest
level. Some children will be inspired by the number of books in the
University library while others will be overwhelmed. Maybe a quick walk
around campus and an ice cream cone will be the best kind of campus visit
for your child.

High School (ages 15-18)

· Get college credit!

Students who plan their high school class schedules wisely can leave high
school with years of college already under their belts (saving serious time
and money). Understand all of your college credit earning options (Advanced
Placement, Concurrent Enrollment, etc). Get a list of all of the courses
offered at your high school (and be aware of online class options) and
consider mapping out all of the classes your student will take through

· Invest in soul searching

Anything you can do to help your child narrow down their areas of interest
while they are still in high school will save time and money in college.
Arrange for job shadowing, summer internship volunteering, or just help
your child find someone who works in a field they are interested in to talk to.
Take advantage of outreach activities (like Future Engineers Day) at your local

· Start early on the standardized testing process

One of the costliest mistakes you can make is waiting too long to start taking
the ACT/SAT. Make sure the PLAN or PSAT test when your student is a
sophomore in order to get a sense of where they are right now. Then start
incorporating practice tests and ACT/SAT classes into their schedules. A few
more points on the ACT or SAT can make a huge difference in admission and
scholarship prospects. Since these tests are only offered a few times each
school year, make sure you leave your students enough time to retake the
test several times to reach their personal best score.

Adults going back to school

· Meet with a counselor to see where you are

The prospect of going back to school after years of being away is daunting.
Find power in mapping out course requirements with a college counselor. If
you started college many years ago, be aware that graduation requirements
have changed. Meet with a counselor at the university you hope to attend to
get a clear picture of what you need to do to complete course requirements.

· Use all of your resources (you’ll need them!)

Your brain has changed since you were a young college student. If you
haven’t done math or academic writing for a number of years, be patient as
your brain clears cobwebs out of long unused corridors. Most colleges have
special resources for non-traditional students and all colleges have resources
like a writing center and a math lab. Find out what extra resources are
available to you and use them!

For more information or to contact Amanda by email, visit

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