Attention 6th-Graders: It's Time to Start Thinking About College

Sixth grade is not too early to start planning for college, according to the U.S. Department of Education. It also suggests that parents of children entering middle or junior high school ought to consider carefully what courses will help pave the way. Research shows, for instance, that students who take algebra and geometry by the end of the eighth or ninth grade--as required in many other countries--are much more likely to go on to college than students who don't. Here are courses that college-bound students should take:

* Algebra I in eighth grade and geometry in ninth grade. This enables a student to enroll in chemistry, physics, trigonometry and Advanced Placement courses before the end of high school. These courses also form the foundation for advanced math and science courses in college and give students the skills they need to succeed on college entrance exams. In high school, three to four years of math are recommended, including algebra II, pre-calculus and calculus.

* English, science and history or geography every year in middle and high school. Along with math, these form the academic core of what college-bound students should take. Courses in the three areas include composition, American literature, English literature and world literature; geography, U.S. history, U.S. government, world history, world cultures and civics; biology, earth science, chemistry and physics.

* Two to three years of a foreign language. Taking a foreign language shows colleges that a student is serious and willing to tackle more than the basics, and shows employers that a student is prepared to compete in the global economy.

* Computer science, because basic computer skills are essential for banking and other daily routines--and for many jobs, of course.

* The arts. Taking art, dance, drama or music not only broadens students' cultural understanding but can contribute significantly to intellectual growth.

* Challenging electives, such as economics, psychology, computer science, statistics, communications.

Source: "Getting Ready for College Early, A Handbook for Parents of Students in the Middle and Junior High School Years," U.S. Department of Education, 1997

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