Given how many years it takes to earn a high school degree, it’s easy to wonder whether going on to college is really necessary. But the answer is clear. College graduates still have a wider variety of job opportunities open to them, are less likely to be unemployed, earn more money over a lifetime (adding up to around $1 million more on average, for those earning bachelor’s degrees), have better access to health care and are more likely to own a home. Read a detailed report on the non-financial benefits of a college education.

Going to college also offers students a new perspective on the world, other people and themselves. A college education is preparation for a lifetime of learning, in addition to a career.

Why begin now?

From juggling multiple classes to making new friends, sometimes it seems like just getting through the middle school years is enough of a challenge for students and their families. So it might come as a surprise that grades six through eight are actually the perfect time to begin thinking about college. What you do now really does pay off later.

  • Middle school is a good time to start thinking about your student’s interests and talents and how they might translate into a college major or a career.
  • Taking challenging classes in middle school or seeking more challenge in any class is great preparation for pursuing honors, AP (Advanced Placement) or IB (International Baccalaureate) classes in high school. Though you might not know now if your student will take those kinds of courses, it helps to have that option.
  • If your student needs help in any academic subjects or just with general study skills and organization, middle school is the time to get on track.
  • Studies show that students already know what is expected of them by the time they start middle school — and if they’re told that college is expected of them often and early, they are more likely to make it there.
  • Starting early gives families more time to research college options and start saving, resulting in less of a scramble in high school.