Planning Ahead for College: College Planning and Preparation - The High School Years
Perhaps you dream of going to Harvard or MIT, your flagship
state university, or your mom’s alma mater. While dreams are
good, middle school is too soon to focus on choosing a specific
college, as your interests and needs are likely to change by
the time you leave high school. However, it is time to lay the
groundwork for your future success in high school, college,
and beyond by solidifying your academic knowledge and
skills, developing good study habits, exploring interests, and
beginning to define your goals for the future.
You should leave middle school with a solid background in
core content areas including math, science, the humanities, and
one or more foreign languages. And your classes should be
rigorous so that they prepare you for more advanced courses
in high school and help you develop the study skills that will be
crucial as academic requirements become more demanding.
If your school courses aren’t adequately challenging, consider
taking more advanced classes at a high school, online, or in
academic summer programs.
In addition to what you learn in your classes, use your free
time to expand your general knowledge. Take an interest in
the world around you: Read newspapers or get news on the
Internet and discuss events with your family and friends. Visit
museums and historical sites near your home or while on
vacation, and be sure your education includes exposure to
the arts. Read widely—both fiction and non-fiction—to
expand your knowledge of literature and to build your
critical reading skills.
Evaluate your oral and written communication abilities. If
your school classes don’t adequately meet your needs in these
areas, you might take an online writing course, write for your
school newspaper or literary magazine, or join the debate
team to hone your oral speaking skills. Also, how competent
are you with a computer? You should be comfortable with
word processing, know how to use PowerPoint and other
applications, and be able to search the Internet for information.
It might also be a good time to learn a programming language.
If you have studied piano or played soccer for years and
know you love it and are good at it, these are talents you will
want to continue to pursue and take to a higher level. But
middle school is also a good time to explore new interests, so
join some school clubs, use summers to delve into new topics,
and/or investigate career options by volunteering or working
with a mentor in a field of interest. Gradually identify where
your greatest interests lie and which activities warrant more of
your time, and strive to obtain higher levels of accomplishment,
leadership positions, and recognition for your achievements. For
example, if you love competitions, work toward winning awards;
if it’s theater, seek more challenging roles; if service is your
passion, start a new initiative in your school or community.
As you near the end of middle school, you may be in the
fortunate position of having a choice of high schools; if so,
carefully consider the best option for you and pay attention to
admissions deadlines. Regardless of the school you attend, be
proactive in choosing your 9th grade courses and develop a
four-year plan in consultation with a counselor. Re-evaluate this
plan every year.
Finally, while it may be too early to choose a college, it’s not
too early to consider the type of college environment you might
prefer. If you are attending a summer program on a college
campus or happen to be visiting one while on vacation, look
around and evaluate whether the atmosphere appeals to you.
Is the campus too big or small, too urban or rural, or just about
right? Do you like the housing, the food, the athletic facilities, the
arts center? Even if this particular college might not be on your
list, take advantage of being there to begin to identify attributes
that might be important to you when you look more seriously at
your college options in a few years.
This article is reprinted with permission from Imagine Magazine (http://cty.jhu.edu/imagine), a publication of the The Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
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