Empowering Parents to Prepare Their Middle/High Schoolers for Post-School Transition

By Jaimie Patterson

Graduation is a time in life that parents and students pray for and love when it arrives. However, very few parents realize the importance of their role in getting students ready for the post-graduation world. Some parents began by speaking with students about college and four-year institutions at an early age, while others wait until senior year in high school to begin preparing their child for the transition. By senior year, most students are ready for school to end. Therefore, they are unlikely to listen to any parental guidance at that time. Career development specialists usually begin working with students in the eighth grade, but experts suggest that students should start preparing for college and the post-school world in the sixth grade (Ma, 2012).

Guide to Post-School Transition

Preparing for college in middle school can be difficult for parents, especially, when they do not know where to start. The guide below will help simplify the process involved. Career development specialists, teachers, and school counselors are encouraged to share the guide with parents.

  • Talk about college- Parents often feel that their child does not listen to them when they are attempting to guide them. Parents need to know that this is usually not the case. They need to recognize that they have considerable influence on their child overall. Parents could use this power by starting the conversation about the child's interest and the career they want to have when they are older at a younger age. This will help the child to be open to discussions and then ready to explore/decide at the appropriate time.
  • Make the school your partner- It is crucial that parents are just as involved in school activities and meetings as they are in the child's other areas of life. The child is now at an age where they will explore different opportunities while searching for their interests and ultimate career. As a parent, you can enlist the help of teachers, counselors, and career development specialistis in the school. Ask them to discuss, for instance, the results of the career assessments and help to identify some of your child’s likes, dislikes, strengths, and weaknesses.
  • Get involved in your child’s choice of classes- Use this time in middle school to help your child find their strongest and weakest subjects. As your child enters high school, help them choose their classes carefully, according to their abilities and needs, seeking input from the school counselors and teachers. For example, If your child has expressed an interest in medicine, help the child to choose their science and math classes appropriately in consultation with the school. They may want to take an extra science or math as an elective class. Make sure that they select courses to meet their requirements and choose electives that will be beneficial to them in the end.
  • Get savvy about college cost- It is essential to know all the financial resources that are available and their requirements well ahead of time. Because rules and requirements regarding financial aid and scholarships often change, it is best to start researching early and make frequent follow-ups to maximize the opportunity.
  • Encourage your child to read- Students tend to perform poorly in college due to lack of reading skills. Reading assignments are different in college than they are in high school. The assignments are more frequent and more intense. Therefore, starting early to develop good reading skills and habits will serve them well in college and their chosen career.
  • Don’t wait to get your student help with study skills- Watch your child while they are doing their homework or studying for a test. If you notice that your child has difficulty reading, focusing or studying, middle school is the time to get assistance from school resource personnel. Help students form good study habits as early as possible. It will benefit them in the future (Staff, 2017).
  • Encourage involvement in extracurricular activities- Participating in extracurricular activities in addition to taking classes while in school is an important demonstration of well-roundedness. Colleges look for extracurricular activities on a student’s application for admission. When students engage in these activities early, they maximize their opportunity to gain entrance to their preferred college. As a parent, look into the available Advanced Placement classes, clubs, and organizations that they can join and be sure to include community service projects.

Other Options after High School Graduation

While most parents want their child to attend college, this, however, may not be what the student wants. There are other options for students besides a four-year institution that will help them reach their career goals. Technical programs and community colleges are great ways for students to learn the skills they need without having to accrue an enormous debt or spend 4-6 years in college. These are a few easy steps to start helping students explore alternative options.

  1. Research community colleges, programs, and technical schools that may offer a pathway to the chosen career
  2. Be sure the research includes the examination of the program requirements and how the program prepares the student for employment upon completion.
  3. Inquire and enroll in technical programs at their high schools that could help students gain some knowledge in their area of interest.

Parents in conjunction with the schools, are an important contributor to the successful post-school preparation of their children. Through these early and active engagement efforts, parents may be able to pave the way to viable options for students' career choices. Career development specialists aid this transition throughout middle and high school while encouraging parents to do the same.




Ma, J. (1 April 2012). Why to Start Preparing for College in Sixth Grade. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonma/2012/04/01/why-to-start-preparing-for-college-in-sixth-grade/#5a4317a44e29

GreatSchools Staff. (16 April 2017).  A middle school parent's college prep guide. Great Schools. Retrieved from https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/middle-school-parents-college-prep-guide/



Jaimie PattersonJaimie Patterson is a Career Coach in West Memphis, AR who assists 8th-12th-grade students in developing a plan for life after graduation. Jaimie believes that all students can learn and have a successful adult life enjoying the career of their choice. Jaimie has helped students find part-time and summer jobs, prepare college applications, prep for the ACT, and apply for scholarships. Jaimie is a certified Career Development Facilitator and holds a Bachelor of Science in Mid-Level Education from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Ar. Ms. Patterson could be reached at jlpatterson@asumidsouth.edu

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Bragg Stanley on Wednesday 11/01/2017 at 07:42PM wrote:

Once again, "other" post-secondary options seem to take a back seat to the college option. We need to raise to the same level of respect all options after high school and give them equal treatment, especially as kids are beginning to form ideas about life after high school. Reports tend to indicate that the vast majority of 8th graders, when asked, tend to indicate "college" as their goal. What other options were they told about and how were those options presented? I look forward to hearing the perspective of others....

De Jackson on Wednesday 11/01/2017 at 08:49PM wrote:

Outstanding article. I constantly echo the same thoughts to my peers, constituents and writings. Keep up the good work. We GCDFs have to get the word out there.

Catherine Hughes on Thursday 11/02/2017 at 05:29AM wrote:

I agree with Stanley Bragg - all post-secondary options should be regarded as equally valuable. It is interesting to see that there are similarities between the the US and Australia in relation to perceptions about college versus and vocational and technical education. In Australia there are many calls for schools to promote vocational education and training to the same extent as which univeristy is promoted.

Megan Reed on Thursday 11/02/2017 at 08:42AM wrote:

Excellent suggestions! I teach an online course to educators that supports Career Advising to students in Ohio. I will be sharing this article with them.

Janet Blount on Thursday 11/02/2017 at 10:41AM wrote:

Enjoyed your article. As a career coach, who is developing programs to help parents of elementary and middle school students become career awareness / career exploration advocates for their children, your article supports that there is a need for such programs. I will be reaching out to you directly.

Mary Johnson on Thursday 11/02/2017 at 10:42AM wrote:

Good article. I would agree a bit with the comment that mentions not enough focus on other options other than a 4 year college. Nothing was mentioned of on-the job training programs, apprenticeships or military - all equally valuable students if we are to reach every student, not just some of the students. I would add that the skills needed that are mentioned for year are just as important for the community colleges and technical schools so perhaps should be included with the main discussion rather than separate from the 4-year college track.

Also vital to succeeding after college are skills like showing up on time/everyday, attitude, and being a life-long learner.

Cortez Washington, Director, Career Services on Monday 11/06/2017 at 09:47PM wrote:

Fantastic article Jaimie. The information you provided can help hundreds of parents aide their children. It seems your within your purpose.

Anna Kausler on Friday 11/10/2017 at 01:09PM wrote:

Wow! That is fabulous :) I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. I have no doubt that it will be a help to many parents, as well as educators.
Keep up the good work!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bob Tyra on Saturday 01/06/2018 at 01:38PM wrote:

I agree with Bragg. When did community college stop qualifying as college?!

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the opinions of this organization.