When Should You Start Preparing Your Students for College?

I remember when I was a high school student and was fortunate enough to be recruited to play college basketball. It was such an exciting feeling as I started thinking more and more about my upcoming graduation. After I selected a college, the reality set in – I didn’t know anything about college. How is it different from high school? Was I prepared academically?

I thought about all my teachers, classes, and time spent at school and realized that college was never really talked about. It wasn’t part of the day-to-day jargon at my school. The only place I heard talk of college was in my home. I grew up a twin, so my parents made sure my brother and I considered college since tuition would be two-fold for them.

As I reflect on that experience, there are things that I learned and vowed to change if I was ever in the position to do so in education. Since being the principal at Dove Academy of Detroit, I have worked diligently to instill in the staff and students alike that all Dove students are college bound! It is important to me that we infuse college preparation daily at school, regardless of grade level.

Over the last several years, I have been asked questions by our parents and families regarding the topic of college. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions I receive, along with my response:

Question: “When should students start thinking about going to college?”

Answer: NOW! No matter what grade they are.

Question: “Why should our students think about going to college?”

Answer: They will have greater career and promotion opportunities. By becoming a college graduate, they will add greater value to society by contributing towards lower unemployment rates, lower crime rates, and greater tax revenues. They will have greater opportunities to pursue hobbies, personal interests, wealth, and stability!

Question: “What, exactly, is college readiness?”

Answer: The idea that EVERY student deserves the opportunity to be educated in a way that prepares him or her for college – if they so choose to attend.

Question: “Who will prepare our students for college?

Answer: The students themselves, our staff, parents and family members, our community, and their future middle school and high school. 

Providing college readiness to our students daily is a commitment we make to them when they enroll in our school. Think about it for a second… Students can set their sights on a future that includes a college/university education. Students can learn about the culture of college and develop an interest in a specific university their classroom could focus on for the school year. Students will have such a great opportunity to be exposed to many colleges and universities throughout their primary and secondary education. The school community can be unified by a common goal of a college education. Parents will be proud of their child learning about college and, as a result, would be willing to support a college-bound program in our schools. All of this is powerful stuff!

As you become more intentional with bringing college jargon into your everyday school life, I would encourage teachers to teach about college culture in an effort to tap into our students’ interests on a daily basis. It is helpful to create a program for parents that will expose them to some of the same elements of college culture that their child is learning; Remember, lack of support sometimes is rooted in a lack of understanding. Consistently provide positive reinforcement for the teachers who are enthusiastic about their college/university and share with other staff what these teachers are accomplishing in the classroom, as it can be awesome and persuasive! Don’t forget to seek out support from local businesses, churches, and colleges and universities.

Bottom line, we can help make the opportunity for college a reality if we work together and think outside the box. Position your school to be whom a student thinks about when he or she reflects on their college exposure and college readiness! There are too many opportunities lost, so help be a school, teacher, leader, or parent who successfully contributed to a student’s academic future!