How Can Middle Schools Help Prepare Students for College and Career Readiness
For the longest time, schools and parents encouraged students to pursue college after high school graduation. The goal for middle schools was to prepare students for high school. As high schools add Advanced Placement courses and Dual Credit courses, middle schools must look at what steps to take to help their students advance toward college and career readiness, not just high school readiness.
Even as students are preparing for life after high school, life could look very different for them by the time they graduate. When I went to school, almost everyone planned on going to college after high school. Now, there are so many more options open to students. There are still public and private universities and junior colleges for students to pursue traditionally offered degrees. Added to the inventory now though are vocational schools that teach skilled labor trades, students that head straight into the workforce, as well as those who decide to take online classes and either live at home or travel the world. And no one really knows what options will be available to students in the next five years.
So the question middle school teachers have to ask themselves is, “How do we prepare middle school students for an unpredictable future?” Keep reading to discover six suggestions to help ease your mind about helping your middle school students in the area of college and career readiness.
Host a Career Fair
Hosting a Career Fair is a great opportunity to expose middle school students to careers they might not know about as well as get your community involved with the school. Most parents of students work, so setting up a night where parents can come in and set up a booth to share their jobs would be a great opportunity for both parents and students. This would also be a chance for local businesses to make an early appearance in schools to promote their work.
If a career night seems daunting or is something your school would not like to do, you can always take your students on virtual field trips to see work that adults are accomplishing in the world. Imagine if you could Skype with a marine biologist at SeaWorld and have students ask questions. Maybe they could use Twitter to ask their favorite authors questions about their writing. You could even chat with people from around the world, not just the United States. The world is open to you and your students via the internet.
Teach Study Skills
To help set students up for success, they need to learn some basic study skills so they know how they best learn and focus as they move forward in the future. Helping students learn how they best learn is an important element for life not only in high school, but also after graduation. Are they better auditory learners or kinesthetic learners? Do they need to write everything down in order to remember it, or do they need to create songs instead?
There are also just some basic skills that students need to know, like:
- How to take notes
- How to study for a test
- How to create an environment suitable for studying
- How to read a textbook
- How to write an email
All of these skills will benefit students because if a student knows that they need to write down notes in order to remember it, then knowing how to take notes that work for them would be greatly beneficial.
Take a Campus Visit
Routinely, students take college visits during their Junior and Senior years of high school, but that doesn’t mean that it has to always be that way. You could take your middle schoolers on a field trip to a local college to see the campus, but you could also schedule appointments with different professors to introduce students to various fields of study.
While taking trips to college campuses is a fun idea, you should also consider taking part of a day, or even a whole day, and having students visit the high school. They could sit in on a variety of different classes from core courses like English and Math to elective courses like French, Art, and Music. Students could even visit some upper level courses that include Honors classes, Advanced Placement classes, or even Dual Credit classes. By experiencing these scenarios, they will get a taste of what life will be like for them there, but they will also be able to find out which courses might be good for them to take.
Involve Your Community with Projects
There are always business owners and other adults who would love to share their expertise with your middle schoolers. They might even help would with a project or two. There are numerous projects where the community can get involved.
- Send Students Out: Students can spend the day outside of the classroom, but with a person whose job interests the student. A report about their day could be done when students return.
- Bring Professionals In: At our our school we used to have a Shark Tank project. Students were divided into groups to create a product that would solve an environmental issue. They had to make a prototype and write a speech. We would then have local business owners come in to be our “sharks” and listen to student presentations. The great part was that students got to see adults and talk to them about their jobs after we were done with judging. A project like this could be beneficial to your students as well.
However you want to do it, you should look for people in your community who are willing to support your school and encourage your students in their future endeavors.
Give Students a Mentor
A middle school staff member that can keep an eye on each student is a wonderful way for students to be kept accountable as well as to be doted upon by someone who cares about them. A teacher who looks after a group of students, like a homeroom, for all 3 years that a student is in middle school is a splendid idea! This teacher could check their grades as well as work with them to set and achieve their academic and personal goals. It’s always nice for students to know that someone is in their corner supporting them.
In addition to a teacher mentor, middle schoolers could have a high school mentor. These could be high school students that come visit once a week to check up on the middle school student. They could help them look to the future in high school and beyond as well as be a good example for the middle schoolers to follow.
Administer Aptitude Tests
Lastly, administering an aptitude test to students would be extremely beneficial. In middle school, students really struggle to know who they are and what they want. By giving them an aptitude test, they could see their strengths and weaknesses and careers that might match up with those interests.
Students could then apply everything to help themselves be successful after graduation. By knowing their interests, those could be the jobs they try to job shadow. They have learned study skills to figure out how they best learn, and they have 1-2 mentors who are guiding them as they make choices for their futures.
The pressure to help students succeed after high school is immense in middle school. With just a few of these tools, you can help prepare your middle schooler to be college and career-ready, whatever they choose.
Do you have ideas for helping prepare your middle schoolers for college and career readiness? Share them with us on Twitter @Schoology