High School 2 College

April 13, 2009

Start Preparing for College in 7th Grade? Yes, You Should!

Parents of seniors call me every year in August to help their students get ready for the SATs and ACTs and SATIIs and a few months later for help with college applications and essays. 

Most times, I wish they called earlier.  About 5 years earlier.

I agree with nearly all of this advice:  http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/education/bal-achieveside0412,0,571587.story

Here’s what I’d tell you if you had called me when you were in 7th grade:  If you want to get into a competitive college, you had better start planning now.  Top tier colleges are accepting fewer and fewer applicants every year.  (See articles like: http://www.usnews.com/blogs/paper-trail/2009/3/31/top-colleges-see-record-low-acceptance-rates.html?s_cid=et-0410 )

So what should a 6th, 7th, or 8th grader do to get a head start?

Read.  It’s the activity which will have the greatest impact on your future.  If you read, your SAT and ACT scores will be higher.  If you read, your grades in English and Social Studies will be higher.  Reading anything (including romance novels) is better than reading nothing.   Read something just outside your usual area of interest.  If you usually read fantasy or science fiction, read a mystery (Agatha Christie and Dick Francis are my favorite mystery authors).  If you read war novels, read a biography.  If you read The Onion, read Gulliver’s Travels.  Always have a book with you.  I keep a paperback in my pocketbook, a hard cover by my bed, and magazines in my bathroom.

Take the hardest classes you can manage.  If you have the option of taking advanced math in 7th grade, do it.  It’s hard to move back into the advanced track in high school once you’re out of it, and colleges want to make sure you’re taking the hardest classes you can (the rigor of classes is much more important than SATs in most cases).  Same with science — take the advanced or honors track if you can.  You can always drop back down to an easier level if you must in later years, but you’ll find it near impossible to move up a level later.

Take Spanish all the way through senior year.  There are more periods of Spanish than any other language.  That means you will have a wider choice of teachers as you move on, and a wider selection of levels (honors, AP).  Spanish class is not going to conflict with a more infrequently-scheduled class, like orchestra, but French might.  And competitive colleges prefer to see 3 or 4 years of a foreign language (not including 7th and 8th grades).

Improve your writing skills.  The best way to improve your writing skills is to have an amazing English teacher, but not everyone can have Mrs. Joyce Garvin as a teacher as I did.  Another way to improve is to hire yourself a good writing coach (ahem – I happen to know one!) and see her periodically when you have a project or an essay.  But writing frequently, writing with intent and determination, writing letters to the editor, writing book reviews on Amazon.com — writing anything is a good way to gain comfort and fluency with writing.

Take as many classes as you can.  In high school, that means no lunch.  You can eat in class.  Take two languages.  Take two sciences.  Get your requirements out of the way as early as you can so you can take more interesting electives that may only be open to juniors and seniors.

Make friends with your guidance counselor.  They’re busy, and they’re not going to call you up to tell you that you could fill that hole in your schedule with a new AP class — unless you go to them and ask.  They know which teachers might be teaching which classes, which new classes are being considered, which electives won’t be offered next year.  Your guidance counselor will have to write a college recommendation for you, so get to know him or her the minute you start 9th grade.  Bring him/her cookies. (My sons’ absolutely wonderful counselor loves chocolate.)  Stop by to show off that A you got on a test.  The better your guidance counselor knows you, the more helpful advice you’ll get.

Ask your friends’ parents what they do for a living.  Most kids enter college without a clue about what they want to do because the only professions they know are teacher, doctor, and businessman.  The earlier you become aware of all the different sort of jobs there are, the more you’ll find school relevant and interesting.  And the more interesting and relevant you find school, the better you’ll do.  Find out what a public relations person does.  Or a chef.  Or an advertising editor.  Or a graphic designer.  Or an office manager.

Listen to adults speak.  Since the demise of the cocktail party, kids don’t have as many opportunities to hear adults engaged in adult conversation.  When kids hear unrelated adults speak to each other, they learn phrases like “double standard,” or “righteous indignation,” or “above reproach.”  They won’t hear those things from parents talking about whose turn it is to take out the garbage or from their friends or sadly even from their teachers.   Too often when there’s a kid in the room, the conversation includes the child and parents adjust their vocabulary.  Kids need to hear adults speak to each other about the news of the day. 

Some might say that kids should be able to be free from the pressure of college until the application date looms near.  But I believe the earlier you start to prepare, the more options you have later and the more stressLESS thinking about college will be when you get to senior year.

Wendy Segal



  1. […] Start Preparing for College in 7th Grade? Yes, You Should! […]

    Pingback by High School 2 College | Delhi Hawks English — October 5, 2010 @ 11:39 am | Reply

  2. this article is pretty helpful.

    Comment by nick hernandez — October 5, 2010 @ 11:47 am | Reply

  3. I think that the idea of making friends with your guidance counserler is a good idea becouse they may help you plan for college. Also they can help you inprove your grade if it is raelly low. Also taking AP classes might help you gor college.

    Comment by Abrhan Granados — October 5, 2010 @ 11:48 am | Reply

    • AP classes will definitely help you get ready for college. Those classes are challenging, but they’ll really help you do college-level work. Keep up your positive attitude and you’ll be in college before you know it. Good luck!

      Comment by highschool2college — October 6, 2010 @ 1:15 am | Reply

  4. I have added you to my blogroll. I teach Freshman and Sophomore High School English. I’ve also featured you there today http://www.delhinotes.com

    Comment by hawks2009 — October 5, 2010 @ 11:48 am | Reply

    • Thank you very much! I presume those are your students who have comments. Keep ’em coming! And if they have any questions about the college process, just ask.

      Comment by highschool2college — October 5, 2010 @ 8:57 pm | Reply

  5. good

    Comment by ivan perez — October 5, 2010 @ 11:48 am | Reply

  6. I am going to try and pass all my classes with B’s or better. If I can do that I am pretty sure that i will make it to college and maybe even graduate. I use my friends as my help to guide me through school and I think i will even do that when i end up gong to college. I really do want to take Spanish and try and improve my writing skills a little it better.

    Comment by Angelique Esparza — October 5, 2010 @ 11:50 am | Reply

    • I believe if you work hard at all your classes and write whenever you can, you’ll be well on your way to being ready for college. And once you’re in college, I’m sure you’ll graduate and get a great job. Good luck!

      Comment by highschool2college — October 6, 2010 @ 1:14 am | Reply

  7. I will keep my grades up as best as I can and I will take going to collage very seriously

    Comment by nick hernandez — October 5, 2010 @ 11:50 am | Reply

    • Sounds good, Nick. Let me know if you have any questions or if I can help you prepare for college.

      Comment by highschool2college — October 6, 2010 @ 1:12 am | Reply

  8. i am going to start to pay more attention in class and do my homework more often. i am also going to get better grades. i will start to plan for college because in a couple of years i will be in college.

    Comment by Esteban Guerrero — October 6, 2010 @ 12:58 am | Reply

  9. i am going to pay attention in class. i am going to do my homework more often.

    Comment by Esteban Guerrero — October 6, 2010 @ 1:00 am | Reply

  10. i am going to pay attention in class. i am going to do my homework more often. i need to start planning for college because in a few years i might get into one.

    Comment by Esteban Guerrero — October 6, 2010 @ 1:01 am | Reply

    • I’m sure if you do your homework every night and study for tests, you’ll be ready for college. Good luck!

      Comment by highschool2college — October 6, 2010 @ 1:06 am | Reply

  11. Are there any programs out there, like Sterling Scholars (at least I’m pretty sure that’s one), that I can start in 7th grade?

    Comment by I'm not Telling. — July 26, 2011 @ 8:21 pm | Reply

    • I’m not sure, but the internet and your school guidance counselor are two places to start looking. Good luck!

      Comment by highschool2college — July 26, 2011 @ 9:28 pm | Reply

    • I’m not sure, but the internet and your school guidance counselor are two great places to start looking. Good luck!

      Comment by highschool2college — July 26, 2011 @ 9:29 pm | Reply

  12. Im bearly starting 7th grade this August. I want to start planning now but I live in Houston and want to attend college in California, can I get scholarships too?

    Comment by Ashley Hernandez — July 9, 2012 @ 12:36 am | Reply

    • Good for you for starting to think about college so early. Yes, there are always scholarships available for qualified students, no matter where you want to go to school and no matter which state you’re from. Do the best you can in school, do all your school work, ask your teachers if you don’t understand something, read as often as you can – and you’ll get where you want to go! Good luck!

      Comment by highschool2college — July 9, 2012 @ 1:37 am | Reply

  13. THANKS

    Comment by CARSON — July 22, 2012 @ 9:31 pm | Reply

  14. awesome ima start now especially since im in 7th grade got my five years of preparing also is ther anyway you could take your SAT in seventh grade or like when do you get to take your SAT what grade and also if you cant take your SAT in 7th grade when can you take your PSAT

    Comment by Keri — September 16, 2012 @ 5:13 pm | Reply

    • There’s no benefit in taking your SATs so early. Most colleges want to see tests taken within a year or two of the application. As for PSATs, some students take them in 10th grade as a practice, but I don’t recommend taking them until 11th grade, when they count. If you want to see how you stand in 10th grade (or before), there’s a free practice test on http://www.collegeboard.com and there are many books with practice tests.

      Comment by highschool2college — October 4, 2012 @ 8:45 pm | Reply

  15. I’m in 7th grade and i go to a really small school. I’m already thinking about college and I’m scared that my family won’t be able to afford it. What would be the best ways to earn good scholarships? I’m a little worried.Please help.

    Comment by rileyjean — April 4, 2014 @ 6:29 pm | Reply

    • the best scholarships are given to the students with the best grades and the best scores, so get the best grades you can in school. Take honors and AP courses if they’re offered, because colleges like you to show really effort. If you go to the hardest school you can possibly get in to, you might not get a scholarship, but if you go to a slightly easier college, they’ll compete to have you and offer you all the money you need to attend. Good luck!

      Comment by highschool2college — April 5, 2014 @ 11:52 pm | Reply

  16. Reblogged this on Books that I have read.

    Comment by bilisumadiribssa — June 22, 2015 @ 2:55 pm | Reply

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