Can it be too soon to prepare for college while still in the eighth grade? After all, these students haven’t spent the first day in a high school level class and college is probably like the distant light at the end of the tunnel and doesn’t appear to be getting brighter anytime soon. The truth is, the eighth grade might be the best time to begin preparing for college.
I’m not necessarily talking about taking Saturday classes to begin prepping for the SAT or ACT exam or visiting college campuses. Part of the college prep process should include these two functions, but, eighth graders and their parents should use this year to make a solid plan during the high school years.
How To Kills Two Birds With One Stone
You have likely heard the expression “Killing two birds with one stone” before. The primary advantage that an eighth grader possesses over any high schooler is… time. Even if it is still too early to take any action, now is the time to plan and be ready for the future.
The primary advantage that an eighth grader possesses over any high schooler is… time.
An eighth grader, let alone a high school freshman or sophomore, might not know exactly what they want to do when they grow up. It’s usually during the sophomore year when most students start to seriously think about taking the SAT or ACT and potential colleges to attend. Certain decisions cannot be made until later in the high school career when test scores, financial aid, and career ambitions are more solidified.
The eighth grade is the best time to begin planning for the future by exploring collegiate and career options. By taking the time to plan for the future during this year, this child has the opportunity to earn college credit during high school. How is this possible?
#1: Discover and Pursue Talents and Passions
Having a paper route or flipping burgers at McDonald’s are two jobs commonly filled by high school students. While both these jobs teach responsibility and the value of hard work, the Internet and automation are slowly phasing out these positions. It’s unskilled labor and anybody can do these tasks.
Instead, children should use this time, when they are still living with mom & dad and do not have to pay bills or rent, to find what they are good at. It might be working on automobiles, computer coding, selling handmade crafts, etc. By encouraging your child to start a small business or mentor under somebody in their desired professional might help them figure out their true likes & dislikes instead of finding out during an internship during the third year of college. It’s easier to steer the ship on a new course at the beginning of the voyage to avoid a tempest compared to when it is immediately over the horizon.
If an adult finally decides to pursue their talents and eventually switch careers, there are more variables to balance. They can work side jobs, but have to balance family and work demands. It takes many months to establish a presence and build a reputation to earn a replaceable income with these newfound skills. It might even require quitting a full-time job to successfully make the transition. Some adults might not be able to afford to switch careers.
This is why the eighth grade and the first year of high school are the best time to discover talents. As the majority of college graduates work in a profession that doesn’t relate to their degree, perhaps taking the opportunity to explore today will save time, money, and uncertainty later.
My wife thought she wanted to be a midwife until she shadowed one and decided it wasn’t for her. This experience saved having to take classes about a subject she realized was not her passion. If you have a son who might be interested in firefighting or becoming a police officer, many local organizations allow teens to “ride along” and see if this is what they want to do as an adult.
#2 Earn College Credit In High School
Another benefit of preparing for college in the eighth grade is the ability to create opportunities to earn college credit without being a college student! This might seem like a revolutionary concept but has been around for awhile.
There are several different ways to earn college credit in high school. Here are a couple programs that a high school freshman or sophomore can earn credit.
If your child has an interest in auto repair or another technical skill that needs advanced training, not a bachelor’s degree, they can take high school classes such as Auto Body Repair 101 that can earn high school and college credit. They are learning the same skills (such as operating a paint booth or welding) in high school that they will learn as a high school graduate several years later.
This type of training in high school means they get a head start on earning their technical degree and have more time to master their skills. At high school graduation, they can pursue advanced training or find a better job because they have already completed the basic training.
Many school systems and colleges offer dual enrollment courses in a variety of topics from English to Math and Science that reward college credit at the end of a semester or the academic year after attending a college-level course in high school. For $60-$250 per semester, these classes are for students that plan to attend a regular college to earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. An increasing number of colleges are allowing students to take dual enrollment classes with a specific college in a variety of subjects. If the family is fairly certain they know what college the student will attend, this can be a great way to earn guaranteed college credit.
An increasing number of colleges are allowing students to take dual enrollment classes with a specific college in a variety of subjects. If the family is fairly certain they know what college the student will attend, this can be a great way to earn guaranteed college credit.
If the student attends a different college, the credits may or may not transfer to a different college depending on the individual policy of the school. As a general rule of thumb, dual enrollment classes will normally transfer for credit to other public in-state colleges, although, other colleges have become more receptive to dual enrollment in recent years. This method is also a more sure-fire way of receiving credit than the Advanced Placement programs that require a high test score of a 4 or 5 to be awarded college credit in most instances.
The final and most flexible way to “double up” in high school for college is through a method called credit by examination. A College Level Examination Program (CLEP) exam is a test administered by The College Board (the same people that administer the SAT and AP programs) tests people on what they already know instead of what has been learned after attending class.
Each exam costs $80. CLEP exams are the most flexible way to earn college credit in high school because they can be taken at anytime (December, May, July, February), not the end of each semester, and there is a test for nearly every subject that can earn 100 or 200 level credit. Plus, you are not required to attend a relevant class before taking the exam (similar to dual enrollment or advanced placement).
At No College Debt, we believe you can never start too soon to prepare for college. The best time to take a CLEP test is at the end of the regular high school class while the information is still fresh. For example, after taking American History the student can take the History of the United States I: Early Colonization to 1877 after studying this material and the second exam (History of the United States II: 1865 to the Present) after that material has been reviewed.
CLEP tests are accepted at over 2,900 colleges and universities. Each school has different acceptance policies as some only accept up to 32 transfer credits (the equivalent of two full-time semesters) while other accredited institutions will accept up to four years of credit.
By preparing ahead of time, students can take exams for courses that are not offered by Dual Enrollment programs. And, if they take several CLEP exams, they can choose a university that is more accepting of this option. This saves money and time.
Can I Do More Than One of These Options?
Yes! The average 2016 college graduate walked across the stage with $37,000 in student loans. Only a few years ago, the typical grad had $30,000 in loans. Using any combination of these three options will reduce the college student loan debt burden and allow the student to graduate early or possibly double-major!
Any way to earn college credit while in high school is awesome. Certain students need the structure of a classroom environment to pass a class and graduate. If that’s the case, Dual Enrollment or Advanced Placement courses are the best options.
For those that are self-starters or do not want to sit through English or History again in college can take a CLEP exam to avoid this form of deja vu.
Is The 8th Grade Too Early to Prepare for College?
This decision is ultimately up to the parent. Some students simply need to mature before a decision can be made. You also do not want to be so adamant about being a Ph.D. candidate at the age of 13 that the child gets “school burnout” and flees to a minimum wage job as a form of rebellion.
It’s not too early to start planning in the eighth grade and be open to alternative methods such as CLEP and Dual Enrollment. Remember that the greatest asset an eighth grader has is time. Time to discover their talents and develop a plan to get ahead in college coursework. Once an educational opportunity passes in high school, the next opportunity might not be until college (which costs significantly more than any CLEP exam or DE class).
At No College Debt, we would be glad to help you with your college-prep questions. Please leave a comment below or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org