by Trent Baumbach
When we talk about college prep, we often focus on high school students. However, planning for these studies, especially abroad, can and should start much earlier. As an international student living in Japan, starting early can help to ensure you’re adequately prepared for both admissions and success at top universities in the U.S. In this blog, we’ll explore how international students at the elementary and middle school levels can start paving their way to U.S. universities.
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Developing strong academic skills during your elementary and middle school years is key to future success at the university level. Establishing this strong foundation involves more than just achieving high grades—it’s about acquiring deeper critical learning skills across subjects like math, science, English, and social studies.
Three essential skills to start working on early include:
These skills transcend specific subject areas alone as they are fundamental for all university-level studies in the U.S.
While the three skills mentioned above are universally applicable, developing mastery of the four following subjects before high school is equally important.
To check your proficiency in these areas, consider taking assessments designed to identify any gaps in your skills. Tools like the ADAM K-7 for math skills or DORA for reading abilities can provide insight into your strengths and weaknesses. Having an understanding of your own current state will help in planning what areas to put the most time into improving.
When reviewing the results, it’s essential to cultivate a growth mindset. Remember that any areas of difficulty are not failures but opportunities to learn and grow. As Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck explains, a growth mindset sees abilities as being developed through dedication and hard work, creating a love for learning and resilience essential for accomplishment. U.S. universities will expect their students to exhibit this growth mindset!
If you identify any skill gaps, work on addressing these as early as possible before progressing to high school. Consult your teachers, school counselors, or tutors for help and resources. Online courses can also be a valuable tool for filling in these gaps.
While attending a U.S. university might seem a long way off for an elementary or middle school student living in Japan, it’s never too early to start preparing. By focusing on the essential skills of learning independently, thinking critically, and writing clearly, while also honing subject-specific abilities, you’ll set the stage for a smooth transition to high school and, eventually, college abroad.
Remember to approach any challenges with a growth mindset, seeing them not as setbacks but as opportunities for improvement. With preparation, dedication, and a positive attitude, your dream of studying at a U.S. university can become a reality.
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