thanks to education consultant, Janet MacDonald for this guest post:
Yes, college or university is a long way off for junior high school students. But if you are thinking–and hoping–your child will attend a post-secondary institution in the future then there are some simple, no pressure things you can do now to help make the path a bit smoother.
Seek out opportunities to get your child onto university or college campuses. French language summer camp, a varsity sports game, a musical production or a trip to the planetarium – these are all great ways to introduce your child to a university or college campus. Not only will kids get a feel for the university and get to know their way around, they will be better able to “see” themselves as a university or college student when they are older.
Sign them up for day camps and activities with a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Some middle-school kids already know they like science and math, but if your child is a bit reluctant, they may come around if the activities are fun and not overtly science-y or math-y, like robotics, video game coding or (my personal favourite), making ice cream using liquid nitrogen. The idea is not to pressure children to become engineers, but rather to help them see that STEM activities can be fun, and to encourage them to have an open mind about taking STEM courses in the future. This, in turn, will help keep open as many career options as possible.
Make sure you understand your child’s future high school curriculum and the options available, if any. For example, does his or her future high school offer honours courses, Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) certificates or Diploma? If so, and if you want your child to be prepared for them, the time to build a solid foundation is in junior high. So if your child is struggling in a course, perhaps consider a tutor for that subject. Or, if your child excels in music or performing arts, determine if there is a program at a suitable level at his or her future high school. If not, is it worth changing schools, or is there an extra-curricular program that will suffice? Talk with other parents whose child has attended the high school, and check out the school’s guidance office website. If you have a specific question that you cannot get answered, call the high school and request a 15 minute meeting with one of the guidance counsellors.
Stay Positive – Junior high is also the time that your child may start to form real ideas about what career they want to pursue in the future. Try not to discount any of these ideas. A sharp remark or a well-intended but unsolicited doom-and-gloom economic forecast of that particular career sector may backfire so that your child doesn’t want to discuss the subject with you later, when it really matters. Many of these ideas will never come to fruition anyway, so at this point try to keep an open mind and allow your child to think, explore and dream.
Finally, junior high is a time of huge personal changes for teenagers. How students manage these changes will affect their academics, so support them as much as possible and the rest will fall into place much more easily.
Janet MacDonald is a Halifax-based education consultant who helps students and their families with university admission, scholarship prep and career exploration. For information on her services, please see mycampusGPS.ca.