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Starting in the 6th Grade – College Prep, Life Prep

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In April of last year, Forbes’ Jason Ma published, “Why To Start Preparing For College In Sixth Grade.” And, while this may sound as though Jason Ma is asking too much of our 11-year-olds, he makes some important and interesting points: “high-achieving teenagers and young adults need significant time to unleash their full potential,” and “their goals and aspirations must go beyond just admissions to top universities or graduate schools.”

In other words, this isn’t about starting children thinking about college at age 11, but about getting them started thinking about their potential, their skills, and their interests early on. As Jason Ma goes on to say, “Building up true interests and strong extracurriculars and leadership positions can help students thrive during the brutal top-tier college app season” — knowing what skills they want to master and what goals they’re working toward beyond college can help students better handle pre-college stress and to target those schools and programs that will truly get them to where they want to go.

After all, figuring out what skills and interests students want to focus their college years on can be just as stressful as taking the SAT exam if they haven’t begun thinking and talking about these interests early on. Why do schools take elementary level classes on field trips to museums and aquariums? It’s because they want to begin fostering wider interests in their students as soon as the fourth, fifth, and sixth grades. However, how often do these children get to gaze into the eyes of a dolphin or an octopus and hear an adult actually come out and say,

“You know, if this interests you, this is what you could do when you grow up. You have the potential to work with these creatures professionally one day if you want to.” ?

Children need to hear these words explicitly early on. It’s not enough to shove them into the many possibilities of the world and say, “Find your passion!” That’s a way to simply fast-track students to tearing-their-hair-out levels of stress in their junior and senior years of high school because they still haven’t found their “passion.” Instead, what kids need to hear is, “If this interests you, you should try to learn more about it — read Whatever Book, ask a librarian for research materials, or talk to your parents about it. Lots of people do exactly this for their careers, and, if you want, you could one day as well.” In other words, give kids something concrete to think about early on rather than throwing them head-first into the abstract universe of unknown “passions.”

To help students better explore such concrete and various options as Marine Biologist, Medical Entomologist, Truck Driver, Hatter, Chef, Writer, Neurosurgeon, Teacher, Realtor, and so forth, Jason Ma suggests the perfect starting place: Reading Diversely! Read fiction, nonfiction, science fiction, romantic fiction, westerns, essays, classics, newspapers, magazines — don’t simply find a single niche and plant yourself there; go exploring into a new genre, writer, and style from time to time. This will not only improve students’ reading comprehension and critical analysis skills, but will give them a better view of the true range of jobs and possibilities available to them. And, once they’ve got a clearer, more confident grip on what skills they want to develop and what careers most interest them, they’ll have a much easier time communicating their goals, studying to meet these goals, and targeting their work toward achieving these goals.

A Few Unique Reads We Might Suggest Are…

National Geographic (and don’t forget that they have a National Geographic for Kids as well!)

Orion Magazine

“…Orion has become a focal point in an extraordinarily rich period of nature writing, and it has remained true to that core conviction, though the magazine has evolved into a bimonthly and the range of its interests has broadened to include not only environmental but cultural concerns.

Orion’s mission is to inform, inspire, and engage individuals and grassroots organizations in becoming a significant cultural force for healing nature and community.”

the Claremont Review

“the Claremont Review is a magazine that showcases inspiring young adult writers, aged 13-19. We publish poetry, fiction, drama and art, twice a year, spring and fall. If you are interested in submitting your work check out our submission guidelines.

We strongly encourage students, teachers and libraries to subscribe to this tremendous resource and critical venue for young writers to voice their talent.”

Ms. Magazine

“Ms. was the first national magazine to make feminist voices audible, feminist journalism tenable, and a feminist worldview available to the public.

Today, the magazine remains an interactive enterprise in which an unusually diverse readership is simultaneously engaged with each other and the world. The modern Ms. boasts the most extensive coverage of international women’s issues of any magazine available in the United States.”

The Chronicle of Higher Education

The Chronicle of Higher Education is the No. 1 source of news, information, and jobs for college and university faculty members and administrators.”

Analog: Science Fiction and Fact

“Astounding/Analog (often all-encompassingly just called ASF) is often considered the magazine where science fiction grew up. When editor John W. Campbell took over in 1938, he brought to Astounding an unprecedented insistence on placing equal emphasis on both words of “science fiction.” No longer satisfied with gadgetry and action per se, Campbell demanded that his writers try to think out how science and technology might really develop in the future-and, most importantly, how those changes would affect the lives of human beings. The new sophistication soon made Astounding the undisputed leader in the field, and Campbell began to think the old title was too “sensational” to reflect what the magazine was actually doing. He chose “Analog” in part because he thought of each story as an “analog simulation” of a possible future, and in part because of the close analogy he saw between the imagined science in the stories he was publishing and the real science being done in laboratories around the world.”

Cobblestone & Cricket Magazines

“Our literacy & language arts magazines for toddlers to teens build reading skills with selections from the best children’s writers and illustrators from around the world. Our nonfiction magazines in history & culture and science & ideas bring the excitement of discovery to young readers ages 3 and up. Well-researched articles, magnificent photos, and hands-on activities make learning about our world fun and engaging.”


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