When Should Parents Begin Talking About College With Their Kids?

Warsaw University of Technology by Germán Meyer Parents expectations have a big influence on the expectations kids set for themselves. By beginning the college conversation early, your kids will think of going to college as a part of their lives, and they'll see more of a connection between learning at school and their futures.

The choices made by kids in middle school and high school can have a significant affect on the rest of their lives. That's why many parents start talking with their children about college when they enter the sixth grade.

Counselors, colleges, and organizations such as ACT and the National Association for College Admission Counseling recommend parents begin planning for college by middle school or earlier. Kids need strong preparation in middle school in order to take the high school courses that colleges require. Students who take algebra in middle school are able to enroll in trigonometry, chemistry, and physics in high school. Also, besides good grades, parents should consider hard work and improvement as barometers for measuring a child's success in school.

Talk to your children about what topics interest them and the corresponding college majors and careers. Also, let your kids know that students enjoy college life and that it's something to look forward to.

Think College Early

Think College Early, a useful website developed by the U.S. Department of Education, shows middle school students why it's important to begin preparing for college before they enter high school. The site's Getting Ready for College Early Handbook is designed for parents of children in middle and junior high school.

College Zone Website

College Zone offers useful resources for parents in its Parent Zone. Parents of kids of all different ages can find a wealth of valuable information here.

College Career Life Planning Website

College Career Life Planning offers free helpful materials to parents and students. It's Tools to Motivate section provides a collection of articles that parents can use to show kids the importance of going to college.

Overly Structured Parenting

Some parents go too far while preparing their children for college. A study shows that college educated moms living in the United States are becoming increasingly preoccupied with preparing their children for admission to elite colleges. According to University of California-San Diego economists Gary and Valerie Ramey, mothers have significantly increased the amount of time they spend taking their children to organized activities. Kids' schedules are packed with sports, arts, and additional classes. Too many extra curricular activities can exhaust children and leave them feeling burnt out.

Visit College Campuses

Visiting college campuses with your kids may help inspire them to attend college. These visits make college feel like something tangible. Tour some campuses and perhaps attend sporting events or concerts on-campus. Parents and kids can also take virtual tours of many of the country's colleges and universities by visiting Campus Tours.com. Perhaps your alma mater is available for a virtual tour.

Kids enjoy learning through fun activities. Besides using a map to teach your kids the names of state capitals, you can use it to teach them where the well known colleges, such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford, are located.

Benefits of a College Education

At some point in their childhoods, kids realize money is important. They should be made aware that during their work lives, college graduates, on average, make close to a million dollars more than high school graduates. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau report titled: "The Big Payoff: Educational Attainment and Synthetic Estimates of Work-life Earnings").

2008 Census data shows that people 25 years of age and older with a only a high school diploma earned $33,801; those with a bachelor's degree earned $55,656 and individuals with a master's degree earned $67,337. A report from the College Board Advocacy Policy Center shows that people with a college degree are less likely to experience unemployment, less likely to smoke, and more likely to be involved in community service.

Parents and kids should begin discussing the importance of a college education no later than middle school. Kids need to be properly prepared to meet college entrance requirements. Keep it mind, however, that overly structured parenting should be avoided. Parent should also convey to their kids that their middle school and high school years are also about having fun.

Free online parenting summit


Brian Jenkins, a member of the BrainTrack writing team, is an expert on many career and education topics. He has written a number of articles designed to help students plan their career paths.

Note: Opinions expressed in this guest post may not represent the views of Family Anatomy or its authors. Posts on Family Anatomy are for education only, and are not intended to replace professional or medical advice. If you need to talk to someone about family or mental health issues, you can get a referral from your family doctor.