Sixth-graders and their parents already have a lot on their minds these days. School. Friends. Sports. Justin Bieber.
So how much time should they be spending preparing for college?
More than you might think, according to the Minnesota Private College Council.
The group has posted a tip sheet designed especially for parents of middle schoolers on its website, www.mnprivatecolleges.org.
The idea, says marketing director John Manning, is that it's never too early to start talking to kids about college.
"Maybe it sounds intimidating to think about college preparation … when you have a sixth- or seventh-grader," said Manning, himself the father of a middle schooler. "But in truth it doesn't have to be as daunting as it sounds."
By middle school, he said, students already are developing habits that could help or haunt them down the road. Are they choosing the most challenging classes? Taking a foreign language? Involved in after-school activities?
Often, colleges look for those things, he notes, and students can get a head start before high school.
Some of the advice is more prosaic:
Make sure they have a dictionary. Provide a study space "free from distractions." And: "Have your student clean out his backpack and locker once a week."
Clean out their backpacks? It's about learning to get organized, Manning said. As well as making sure that important notices — about homework or other matters — don't get lost en route home.
Those organizational skills, he said, "are really important in middle school. That's how they can be ready to succeed in high school."
The council surveyed middle-school parents a few years ago and found that they're hungry for this kind of information, he said. In fact, half thought waiting until middle school was too late. But there's research, he said, that "middle school is the best time to build college readiness."