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Preparing for High School or College

Gifted Education and Support

There are obvious considerations that may cross your mind when preparing your middle schooler for the transition to high school. You may be worried about their executive functioning skills, making new friends, or already thinking about college. However, there are a few questions and concerns that may not have crossed your mind. First and foremost is finding a prospective school. This might mean looking beyond the locally zoned school towards different public schools, magnet programs, private schools, homeschool co-ops, or charter and independent school options. You might narrow your list of schools by considering which kind of advanced courses your child wants to pursue in high school.

You will need to pay special attention to any steps needed to enroll your child in a school that your family is not zoned for. This means planning ahead early to ensure you meet any deadlines. For example, you may need to submit a formal application, apply to a lottery system, your child may need to audition, or you may need to discuss transportations solutions if bussing isn’t an option. In addition, many education employees are out in the summer months so, if you need to communicate with any staff members, it is best to contact them earlier in the year while school is in session.

Another consideration may be the continuation of gifted services available at the high school level. While not universally true, many gifted programs end after middle school, and AP-type courses are expected to stand-in for gifted programming. If you live in a state that has gifted education programming, try contacting the district Gifted Education Coordinator to ask if there are any additional opportunities. If you don’t live in an area with gifted programming, speak with the Curriculum & Instruction Specialist or principal about options available to advanced students, such as mentoring or internships.

Lastly, it will be important to communicate with the academic adviser or person who is in charge of student schedules. You may need to ask specific questions about their policies, such as:

  • Can freshman take AP or other advance courses? If not, is there a process for my child to appeal, such as bringing in a portfolio of work to demonstrate goodness-of-fit between them and the class material?
  • Does your school permit concurrent enrollment with local community colleges? Are there any additional applications involved if my child would like to pursue this option?
  • Does your school offer academic extracurricular options, such as Science Olympiad or robotics teams? If so, how can my child participate in these?

Navigating bureaucracy is never a fun part of a new school. However, knowing which questions to ask is sometimes half of the battle. We hope this helps you feel a little more prepared as you pave the way for your future freshman!

Options After High School

What do you imagine life after high school will look like for your student? Do you picture them attending a four year institution where they can study and major in their field of passion? Do you think they want to take a break from the structured life of school and gain some real world experience? Or, have they considered a structured gap year where one can gain otherworldly experience? You are not alone as you process through all the options accessible to your gifted student. Many Young Scholars and their families ask the Davidson team about the best path after high school for profoundly gifted students, but there isn’t one correct option that works for everyone. When we have this conversation with our families, certain paths we talk about include:

College. Gifted students who want a typical college experience are at every type of institution you can imagine. A typical college experience can occur at small liberal arts colleges, elite universities, state schools, technical universities, women’s colleges, and even schooling opportunities outside the country. To get an idea of the type of college experience your student may want after high school, a couple resources that others have found helpful include: Colleges That Change Lives and Cool Colleges for the Hyper-Intelligent, Self Directed, Late Blooming, and Just Plain Different.

Structured Gap Years. Some gifted students want to take some time after high school for personal development and growth. This can often be in the form of a structured gap year. Structured gap year programs may include travel, internships, and academic opportunities. One advantage of such programs is that they include a support network and handle much of the planning. And, these programs can connect a student with other people on a similar path. A couple gap year organizations, such as Global Citizen Year, even offer financial aid and scholarships to students.

Work Experience. Other times, students may want to take a break from all the hustle and bustle school can bring and gain an education in the form of work experience. If your student has a particular skillset, why not encourage growing that and have them seek outlets to work professionally? Work experience can also look particularly good on a resume and/or cover letter should your student want to apply to college in the coming years.

We hope reviewing these different paths after high school can help ease your mind (and your student’s) for the road ahead.

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Please note, the Davidson Institute is a non-profit serving families with highly gifted children. We will not post comments that are considered soliciting, mention illicit topics, or share highly personal information.

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