Is 7th Grade too early to be thinking about getting into college? Yes and no.
Middle school students have plenty on their plates. And kids should be allowed to be kids.
Yet, one particular item on that plate should be of interest to both the students and their parents: the courses in the immediate academic future, that is, 8th and 9th Grade. In many schools, especially private schools, students may take full-credit, high school math and foreign language courses in the 8th Grade, such as Algebra and a first-year in foreign languages like Spanish, French, Latin, German, or, increasingly these days, Chinese. Parents of 7th Graders should be aware of the offerings available to their children in the following year and should determine if taking high school courses in the 8th Grade is a viable option. Are the students qualified? Is it up to the school or the family to place the child?
At stake here is getting a good jump on the curriculum so that later in high school, the student will have some flexibility to take more advanced courses, such as advanced placement offerings, “AP” courses. For example, a student interested in math who takes Algebra in the 9th Grade probably will not have an opportunity to take AP Calculus in the 12th Grade because the prerequisites generally include Geometry, Algebra II, and Pre Calculus – courses that would be slated for the 10th, 11th, and 12th Grades, thus leaving out AP Calculus. If, however, Algebra were taken in the 8th Grade instead of the 9th Grade, the sequence would permit AP Calculus in the 12th Grade. A similar scenario would play out for a foreign language.
Since college admissions officers look very carefully at the transcript of a candidate, they will notice if the student has exhausted a particular discipline – like math. One of the first questions that college admission readers ask when reviewing an applicant’s folder is: has this student challenged himself? The applicant who has a transcript full of AP courses and who has a 12th Grade schedule of high-level courses in each discipline, will stand out in a very positive way. The admissions office would likely have little doubt that the student not only has embraced an academic challenge already, but also will be able to manage college level work in the year to come.
So, 7th Grade students and their parents would be well advised to look ahead to the curriculum available in 8th and 9th Grade – and beyond. The course selections in 8th Grade, especially in math and foreign language, may affect significantly the options in high school and college.