It’s March! Have a Conversation with your Eighth Grader!

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Anne MacLeod Weeks
Anne MacLeod Weeks

Anne has worked in college admissions for four decades and has published extensively on all aspects of the process. She taught AP English, consulted for the College Board, and was a leader in various educational initiatives in independent schools.

You love your child. Your child deserves a great education. And we want to help you both succeed! So let’s start talking about how to ensure the best possible future for your student, now. College may still feel at a safe distance, but the decisions you make now will build the foundation for later success in their college admission journey. So, it’s high time to start having conversation with your eighth grader student!

What should you, as a parent, be discussing with your eighth grader?

March is the time of year when schools begin to plan their academic schedule for the following year. Your eighth grader will be asked to choose courses that will set the path for their future trajectory. It is important to be informed and to ask the right questions of your student’s school before discussing your student’s options.

What do you need to know about high school course selection?

  1. How are students placed in honors or advanced classes?
    1. If my student is not recommended, is there a process for reconsideration?
    2. If my student is placed in a regular section, does this limit my student’s ability to move into the honors or advanced track at a later date?
  2. What is the trajectory for math courses?
    1. Can a student take Geometry and Algebra 2 concurrently in order to advance?
    2. What AP math courses are offered, and what are the prerequisites?
  3. Are students able to take summer classes in order to advance, and if so, are the grades from summer classes calculated into the student’s GPA?
  4. What is the world language requirement?
    1. Is a student able to combine fewer years in multiple languages to meet the full requirement?
  5. Is there a limit on the number of AP courses a student may take in one school year?
    1. In which AP courses do students typically earn a higher score? In which SAT II Subject Tests?
  6. If the school offers an IB program, ask what percentage of students earn the IB diploma.
  7. Does the school provide a description of all elective courses offered?

Once you have this information in hand, you are ready to discuss academic choices with your student. Some questions that may help begin your discussion are broad, others are more highly specific.

Questions to kick off an academic discovery conversation with your eighth grader:

  • What are your favorite subjects, and why?
  • When thinking about your favorite class, what makes it enjoyable? Is it the subject matter, the teacher’s approach, the ability for you to see relevance in what you learn?
  • How much time are you willing to devote to homework during the week? On weekends?
  • Are there courses you have heard about that you want to be sure to take before you graduate?
  • What concerns do you have about high school academics?

Approaching the extracurricular conversation with your eighth grader

Next, it is important to have a conversation about co-curricular interests and commitments. Colleges want to see a mature student commitment and evidence of leadership. Talk with your student about their interests thus far, whether it be athletics, drama, music, art, debate, community service, etc. In which areas does your student thrive? Has your student demonstrated a passion for anything? Is your student independent or a team player?

Move forward

If possible, encourage your student to choose a few activities to which they will commit for all four years of high school. This will show the ability to commit to something long-term. Students also tend to take on leadership roles in areas where they have been involved for more than two years. It is better to devote more time to a few activities than to spread thin over multiple activities.

Look for themes together

It is also effective to think about themes in your student’s life. If history and politics are an academic interest, for instance, rounding out the student’s program with the debate team, Model UN, or Mock Trial will indicate a strong interest across different venues.  Is your student a stellar English student? The literary magazine or school paper are good choices.

Community effort

Reaching beyond school is also a positive sign of interest, maturity, and engagement. Look for opportunities within the community to volunteer in areas that correspond with other interests. For instance, if your student loves environmental studies, working with local committees, working with the state park system, volunteering in dune replenishment, etc., can further demonstrate the student’s interests.

As you move through each conversation with your eighth grader, help your student envision themselves as a complete picture. Who are they? How would they live a daily life that would demonstrate who they are? What makes them happy? What makes them productive?  When the student finds a way to connect academic interests with co-curricular interests, they will find themselves more energized and thus more effective in building a successful high school career.

There’s a lot to consider as a middle schooler, but Empowerly is here to help. Book your consult today to learn about our curriculum throughout each year of high school to help you on your journey to success!

Questions? Let us know!