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It might seem surprising to start this early, but with the increasing competition and evolving expectations of college admissions, 8th grade is not too soon to begin preparing. If you want your child to grow in ways that impress top schools, it’s crucial to lay the groundwork now.

By following these critical steps, your child will not only become a strong applicant but also develop essential skills and values for success in college and life. Early preparation ensures they are ready to tackle the challenges ahead, positioning them favorably for admissions success.

1. Address Fundamental Skill Gaps in Math

If your child struggles with math, now is the time to address these challenges. Remedial tutoring or summer programs can help strengthen these foundational skills. Even for students interested in the humanities, solid quantitative skills pave the way to an Ivy League or other top-tier school.

2. Plan an Accelerated Math Track

For students interested in engineering and other STEM fields, plan their high school math trajectory early. Investigate whether they need to take placement tests or summer courses to advance into higher-level classes like Linear Algebra or Multivariable Calculus later on in high school. This is particularly important if your child is aiming for a STEM career. Successful top school applicants often present experience in math well beyond the typical high school curriculum.

3. Enhance Essay Writing Skills

Teens who have difficulty expressing themselves in writing will fall behind in high school and lose momentum in gaining entry to a top tier school like Stanford, Harvard, or UC Berkeley. Enrolling in a summer writing course can help your child hone this essential skill, preventing it from becoming a bottleneck later.

4. Develop Organizational and Time Management Skills

If your student tends to procrastinate or struggles with organizing assignments, summer is the perfect time to focus on these crucial skills. Tools and courses that enhance time management and organization can be invaluable. When evaluating applications, top school admissions officers will note how well each applicant manages their time as a factor in their decision-making. A student who has done little beyond school work, or students who spread themselves too thin with many superficial commitments will not be viewed as favorably as those who prioritized commitments and executed specific plans with results.

5. Learn to Code

In today’s tech-driven world, coding is a fundamental skill, especially for those interested in STEM fields, but also for humanities students. A humanities student who knows code (but is not necessarily a wizard) will be invaluable for collaborative teams bridging diverse skill sets. Summer offers a low-pressure opportunity to learn programming without the stress of grades affecting college applications. Top schools appreciate humanities students who go beyond their comfort zone, or humanities students who excel in both the humanities and coding.

6. Read Regularly

Continual reading is essential for intellectual growth. The more parents can guide their child in reading both nonfiction and fiction, the more they will stand out in admissions and succeed in life. We encourage introducing “device-free” time on a regular basis to create quiet conditions for the kind of sustained concentration needed for a good, deep read. It could make all the difference in your child’s path.

7. Explore Interests Through Clubs and Volunteering

Getting involved in clubs, sports, music, or volunteering helps students discover their passions and build a well-rounded profile. These activities are critical for personal development and appealing college applications. Be advised that helping a younger teen find volunteer opportunities can be challenging because of age restrictions. This means that extra effort and creative problem-solving might be needed to get your child on the right track. If you want your child to be considered for admission at a top school, this early effort will be worth it! We also often encourage parents to volunteer with their child at this early stage for an easier introduction to volunteering and parent-child bonding.

8.Establish Healthy Routines and Digital Literacy

Learning how to unplug from devices, engage in real-life interactions, and reserve time for deep concentration will instill a personal strength and integrity in your child. Emphasize good social media habits and digital literacy, and establish a balanced routine for health, exercise, sleep, and stress management. Encourage setting limitations on screen time to ensure your child has time for offline activities and meaningful interactions. Rituals and routines help tremendously in this regard. A person in control of their attention, not ceding it to distractions, will be noticed by top school admissions officers.

9. Cultivate Effective Study and Note-Taking Habits

Developing strong study habits and note-taking strategies early is crucial for academic success. Help your child establish a routine, encourage critical thinking while writing, and use visual elements to enhance notes. Minimize distractions to improve focus. Explore the highest-rated, age-specific note-taking applications with your child. Investigate different note-taking methods, such as the Cornell system or outlining, to find what works best for them.

10. Develop a Sense of Global and Community Awareness

Top colleges seek students who are engaged with their communities and the world, beyond just academic excellence. Encourage your 8th grader to care about issues, volunteer, and start thinking globally. For example, they could organize a neighborhood cleanup to promote environmental awareness or start a school recycling program. Volunteering at local shelters or participating in community gardens are also great ways for them to get involved and develop a sense of responsibility.

By focusing on these areas, you can help your 8th grader build a strong foundation for significantly boosting their chances of gaining admission to top colleges. Early preparation not only positions your child as a strong applicant but also instills in them the skills and values necessary for success in college and life.

With over 15 years of experience, Blue Stars has a proven track record of guiding students to success. Our dedicated and caring team provides customized services to meet each student’s unique needs.

We are committed to helping your child reach their full potential and achieve their academic goals.

Click below for a free, 30-minute consultation to learn more about how we can support your 8th grader’s journey to top college admissions.

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Blue Stars College Planning Foundations Workbook

Start today! Go through these strategic exercises to help you sketch out your plans for all four years of high school.

  • Learn key traits important to top colleges.
  • Write your first personal narrative
  • Branch out, exploring interests and defining activities.
  • Set goals and create your 4-year college planning timeline.

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About the Author: Amy Morgenstern

Dr. Amy Morgenstern, affectionately known as Dr. M, is the founder and CEO of Blue Stars Admissions Consulting. She holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and an MFA in contemporary art. A former professor of philosophy, honors program associate director, and assistant to the director of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, Dr. M brings a wealth of academic and multicultural experience to her practice.

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