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A Parent's Guide to Talking Career/College in Middle School

Did you know that middle school’s a prime time to start thinking about college and careers? While high school graduation may seem far off, starting discussions about college and careers in middle school may increase your child’s chances of success.

Students can take steps in middle school to better prepare them for high school and college. They can work on developing good study habits as well as their ability to communicate and critical thinking skills. Remember every year of high school counts when your child applies to colleges. The skills they learn in middle school better prepares them for success when they start 9th grade.

There are other benefits to talking about college and careers while your child’s in middle school. Your child will need specific classes in high school so that they can be ready to enter college. They can even start taking college classes while in high school!

Why High School Shouldn’t Be the Final Destination

Some of us or our friends graduated high school and immediately entered in-demand, decent paying jobs without any additional education. That’s increasingly not the case for today’s workforce.

That doesn’t mean every student has to attend college and earn a four-year degree. When we talk about higher education, we mean not only four-year colleges but also two-year colleges, career schools and job training programs.

Here are three reasons why students’ education should not stop at high school.

  • Many jobs require higher education. By 2020, about two-thirds of job openings will require education beyond high school. Depending on the job, that may mean a certificate from a training program, an associate’s degree from a two-year college, a bachelor’s degree from a four-year college, and in some cases a master’s degree. Remember this year’s eighth graders will be graduating high school in 2021.
  • People with higher education often make more money. We all want our children to succeed, and the dream of many of us is that our children have a better life than we do. Money’s not everything, but having more money helps when it comes to raising a family. Statistics show that typically people with education beyond high school make more money than high school graduates. It’s so much that a college graduate on average earns more than $1.5 million in a lifetime than a high school graduate!
  • More education means more job security. Let’s face it. The economy may go up, but eventually it comes back down. Numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show the unemployment rate in 2015 was highest for people who only had a high school diploma and dropped at each education level higher.

There are three examples that show education pays!

How You and Your Children Can Prepare in Middle School

Middle school is prime time to start talking about the future. Here are some tips on how to start those discussions and begin to prepare now.

Begin the conversation

Start talking to your children in middle school about their interests including what career they may consider entering after high school. Granted they may change their minds – and many do even while in college – but it helps to encourage them to at least start thinking about the future. You can use those talks to show them why it’s important to do well in high school.

One way to approach it is to ask them about their hero. You can work with them to research famous public figures and learn about their academic and career paths, or help them look up what they want to do and what education it takes.

Plan what high school classes to take

Eighth graders especially should start thinking about what classes to take in high school. While students must take certain classes to graduate, they may want to also take others that will help them get into the college of their choice.

Did you know that high school students can take college courses? That’s right! They can take college classes for free and have those classes count towards both a high school diploma and two-year college degree.

Students may also want to consider taking career technical classes if they plan to enter a career like robotics or nursing.

Partner with your school

Many parents become less involved in their child’s education during middle school, but it’s a prime time to stay involved. Meet your children’s teachers and stress that you want to be kept up to date. Check your children’s grades online. Talk to guidance counselors and teachers about your children’s strengths and weaknesses as well as your children’s interests to see if there are any elective classes and extracurricular activities that would be a good fit for them.

How We Can Help at Marion City Schools

Marion City Schools has launched a program dedicated to helping students work towards a two-year degree while still in high school.

Graduate Pathways to Success lets students start taking classes in ninth grade. The partnership with Marion Technical College provides extra support for students to help them be successful.

Students have the possibility of completing a two-year degree for free!

Marion City Schools also starts talking to students as early as middle school about college and careers. GEAR UP, a federally funded program dedicated to removing barriers to college, and Grant Middle School work with students to identify their skills and interests.

Those interests help us align students and their studies at Marion Harding High School so they match career and college pathways designed to increase their chances of success. Our Diploma Plus Acceptance initiative works to make sure students leave high school with not only a diploma but something else to help them be successful. That may mean a skills certificate, technical education, college classes or the option of joining JROTC in high school.

There are also cases where students can get the career training they need while in high school and graduate with the skills needed to get an in-demand job paying good wages. Examples include our health technologies and global logistics programs at Harding.

These examples are part of how Marion City Schools is changing the conversation when it comes to preparing students to be successful in life.

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