By Alexandra Davidson-Palmer, Katie Hewitt, and Katie Wagoner

College and career readiness for elementary school students?! Let’s start off by saying, we know this topic looks a little daunting, especially with your kids still being in elementary school. We get it! We are not suggesting you put down the easy readers and pick up SAT vocabulary flashcards. Not even close. Instead, today we are going to talk a little bit about how you can start planting the seeds in your child’s mind that will eventually grow into thoughts about colleges and careers. Ok, deep breath, let’s do this…

Talk about it

The best thing you can do at this phase of your child’s development is just to talk about it and observe. This is a low pressure time, in terms of talking concretely about college and career readiness. It is, however, a great time to foster a love of learning and cultivate good routines and habits.

  • Understand how kids (yours in particular) learn and regulate emotions. Early childhood is an important time in the development of their social-emotional competence.
  • Look for representation in books, TV shows, dolls, etc. Show your child that children of all genders and ethnicities can achieve anything!
  • Empower your child with diverse experiences. Look for cultural events in your area with kid-friendly activities. Expose them to new cultures and experiences from an early age.
  • Talk to your child while you are out in the community. Ask them what they think about certain jobs [at the doctor’s office, at the mall, at the grocery store]. Ask what they think that individual does for their work, and what your child thinks about that job. Have a conversation!
  • Ask your child what they want to be when they grow up! Ask them what they think that looks like, and what does it take to get there. It is not too early to encourage them to explore careers and dreams they may have for their future!
  • Talk to your child about what they like best about school. What is their favorite thing they are learning about? In these conversations, we can work to foster a love of learning in our children. Encourage them in their strengths!

Now is not the time to drill them on SAT/ACT prep or funnel them down the med school pathway. Now is the time to take the extra few minutes and read with your child. Ask them questions. Observe their strengths.

Ask about guidance at school

Listen for tips and tricks from your school counselors in the school’s announcements and newsletters. In addition, ask your kids what they are working on in their guidance lessons! School counselors love to infuse topics about college and career readiness into our lessons—whether it is talking about how to be a good student, or the education and training required for certain careers.

Final thoughts

We know the topic of college and career readiness can seem daunting for your elementary school aged child, but we hope this post has relieved some of that intimidation for you. At this stage, your child’s dream of what they want to be when they grow up may change daily, and that is okay. Explore those with them, and allow them to dream big! Remember that we are always here as a resource for any questions you have about how to best support your child.

Alexandra Davidson-Palmer, Katie Hewitt, and Katie Wagoner are students in the Master’s in School Counseling Program in the UNCG Department of Counseling and Educational Development.