Planning for College in Middle School: Your Guide

Students video chatting on a desk and taking notes on a wooden desk planning for college in middles school.
December 1, 2023
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 1/27/23

In middle school, college may seem like a far-off concept. But it's never too early to set yourself up for success later on. Continue reading to learn how to start planning for college in middle school.

For many students, college marks the transition from childhood to adulthood. As a middle school student, it's important to think of college as a goal, but not to let it completely dictate your decisions. Instead, focus on your strengths and interests when considering college options. The path you choose for college should align with what you want.

What do you value? Do you have a college major you’re interested in? Do you have a career goal? Do you have heroes that inspire you? While you may not have all the answers now, thinking about your interests is a great way to start planning for college in middle school.

Preparing for College in Middle School: What to Do

If you need guidance, you can always talk to a parent, teacher, or counselor to help steer you in the right direction. Alternatively, the experts here at Quad have put together a series of checklists for grade 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, & 11 students to help them plan for college ahead of time! Take a look below.

Below you'll find some general goals you'll want to work towards that will help you start preparing for college in middle school.

Identify Your Strong Subjects

At some point, every student gets asked what they want to do when they grow up. Having a clear idea of your career aspirations can help guide your college choices and ensure you are pursuing a field that aligns with your goals.

However, don't feel pressured to have it all figured out right now. Even college kids don't always know exactly what they want to do! Instead, focus on identifying and developing your strengths as a way to start planning for college in middle school.

Your strengths often align with your interests! If you enjoy reading and writing stories, English may be a good fit for you. If you have a passion for numbers and problem-solving, consider math or science.

Middle school is a great time to explore your options. Try to take as many classes that align with your interests as possible. 

Challenge Yourself

If you want to start preparing for college in middle school, don’t shy away from taking a class just because it's more difficult. Not only will it help you develop key critical thinking and time management skills, but it can also make you a more competitive candidate when it comes time to apply for college.

Your middle school teachers and counselors will probably suggest which classes you should take in high school based on your current grades. While colleges don’t look at middle school grades, doing well now will likely get you into more advanced classes. 

Qualifying for rigorous programs like AP or IB is a great way to prepare for college. It can also help you secure strong letters of recommendation

Ask Adults About College

As you start preparing for college in middle school, it’s a good idea to talk to a trusted adult, like a guardian or school counselor. If you’re uncertain, they can help you determine your strengths and build a college list for the future. 

Remember, they went through high school just like you and can give you advice on which experiences and subjects will help you get into college.

Participate in Extracurricular Activities

Depending on the college, admissions officers look for students who excel in music, sports, and other extracurriculars

If you have a talent, consider pursuing it as long as it interests you! In the future, it may make a difference when it comes time to choose between colleges. Some schools may even offer scholarship opportunities based on your talents if you prove yourself exceptional.

Don’t be afraid to research outside scholarships! Scholarships can award money to students that win a contest or show their skills. Any amount will help you pay for college, which is expensive. Scholarships may help you decide on your school. Any sort of opportunity or extracurricular now can help when planning for college in middle school.

FAQs: Planning for College in Middle School

Below you will find some commonly asked questions that middle school students are wondering about college. 

1. When Should Kids Start Preparing for College?

Though high school is the traditional time for students to start thinking about post-secondary education, you can start preparing for college in middle school. 

2. How Do Sixth Graders Prepare for College?

Aside from doing your best in your classes, you can start by talking to a trusted adult about college. 

You can think about potential career paths that align with your interests and strengths and research different types of programs. It's also a good idea to participate in extracurricular activities, maintain good grades and develop good study habits that will help you excel in advanced classes later on. 

3. Is Sixth Grade Too Early to Think About College?

It may seem premature, but it's never too early to start thinking about college. 

However, try to keep those discussions from stressing you out. Sixth grade is a great time to focus on building up your strengths, interests, and good habits. Starting to have casual conversations about college in sixth grade can help reinforce positive expectations about your academic goals. 

4. How Do I Create a College Plan in Middle School?

To create a college plan in middle school, it's important to start by researching different colleges and universities. This includes looking into the requirements for admission, as well as the types of programs and opportunities that are offered. 

Based on your research, set specific academic and extracurricular goals for yourself that align with the requirements. You can also meet with a counselor to discuss your options and get tailored advice on how you can best prepare for college. 

Once you've done your research, make sure to take advantage of opportunities that will help you build valuable skills and experiences for college.

Final Thoughts

Applying for college can seem like a lifetime away, but planning for college in middle school can help set you up for success in the future. Do your best to maintain good grades in all your classes to establish a strong work ethic and effective study habits. 

Follow your interests and challenge yourself, both inside and outside the classroom, to prepare yourself for taking advanced classes in high school, which can set you up for success when it comes time to apply for college. 

Not sure what your options are? Or where to begin? Try talking with a parent, teacher, or school counselor about college—they can help you get and stay on track. Having these discussions can give you ideas as a middle schooler you've never thought of before. 

Remember to explore your interests and follow your own dreams for college! Ultimately, the most important thing is to find a path that aligns with what you want and what you value, regardless of when you start planning for it.

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