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Planning for College from the Eighth Grade


I get a lot of comments and questions about college couseling from my contact form on my website.  Many are about my services, some are requests for help on specific topics, and some are just words of thanks or encouragement.

But sometimes I get questions that really impress me.  Yesterday, a young man in the eighth grade wrote asking very intelligent, well-crafted questions regarding his future plans.  He was open and self-aware, and displayed a maturity that sometimes is missing in students much older.

With his permission, I am going to share his question with you, as well as my answer. I think this young man is well-poised to map his educational journey.


To whom it may concern,

My name is (name withheld) and I currently am in eighth grade.  I have an interest in screenwriting and am beginning to look at some college options.  I do have some learning disabilities like having Tourettes syndrome and being foreign language exempt.  Would something like being foreign language exempt prevent me from being able to go to a college?

Thank you and I hope you have a nice day.


You’re doing your planning early…good for you!  You are also seeing that all this college finding stuff is a puzzle.  You’ll want to check the admissions requirements for each college carefully.  You’ll want to check if they have learning services programs to support you with your learning differences—if you need support.  And you’ll want to look at the screen writing programs, of course.

Keep in mind, however, that many, many great screenwriters never went to a “screen writing program” or majored in such a thing.  See if you can uncover where some of your favorites went to college.  What did they study?  Theater?  English?  History? Biology?  I have a friend who has written for many different TV shows in Hollywood.  I think he majored in English.  [Addendum:  I confirmed with my friend that he majored in “American Civilization,” a combination of history and literature.]

So keep asking questions, find people who do what you want to do, and ask they how they got there.  Send them emails—just like you sent me one.  You’ll be surprised how willing people are to share.

Good luck!

And then, to my surprise, the young man wrote me back.

Thank you for all of the advice.  This will help me significantly.

Thanks again for all the help, I will use your advice to help me in my educational ventures.

This young man has plenty of time to explore, to ask more excellent questions, and to learn more about what sorts of educational experiences (both in and outside the classroom) will help him to achieve his goals.  I always like to point out, especially with younger students, that there are many paths toward a goal:  you just have to pick the one that fits you best, without losing sight of the goal.  A focused screenwriting program may be what he needs.  Or he may fit better in a smaller college that focuses on building general writing skills–that has a course or two in screenwriting.  Or one that helps create excellent internships in the creative arts.

And if he has particular concerns that need addressed, like his learning differences and the limitations those may impose, he can begin now to adjust his path without every giving up on his ultimate goal of becoming the next Oscar-winning screenwriter.

One other thing:  I was blown away by this young man’s willingness to write a complete stranger for advice.  And what impresses me, also impresses admissions officers.  So parents, please encourage your students to do their own investigations and to ask their own questions.  Resist the temptation to do the research for them.  Instead, guide them, encourage them, and watch over them as they communicate with those who can help them figure out how to get where they want to go.

The lessons learned through the process are at least as important as the lessons learned in the classroom.

Mark Montgomery
College Consultant

Technorati Tags: college consultant, college counseling, college advice, learning difference, learning disabilitity, eighth grade Tags: college consultant, college counseling, college advice, learning difference, learning disabilitity, eighth grade


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