The University of Nebraska–Lincoln is helping students across the Cornhusker State chart a path to college before starting high school.
Working through Nebraska’s Office of Admissions, teens can begin creating a college plan in eighth grade. The work helps the students identify high school courses that are required to graduate and those necessary for college admission. Participating students also investigate future careers by exploring how personal interests align with college and jobs, connecting schooling and purpose to educational planning.
“We want to show middle school students that we’re here to help them navigate the college conversation,” said Abby Freeman, director of admissions. “Nebraska hosts around 2,200 middle school students each year, with the majority of visits in May.
“It’s encouraging to see the number of middle school students interested in college grow each year.”
The growth in middle school student visiting campus in May has prompted Nebraska admissions staff to rename the month “Middle School May.”
Admissions hosts three events for middle school students — Big Red Stars, Middle School College Access Days and middle school class visits. Each event helps students prepare for college and begin building connections with Nebraska.
Big Red Stars recognizes outstanding eighth-grade students in Nebraska. Each year, high school principals and guidance counselors nominate students who demonstrate strong leadership skills and academic promise.
“It’s important to recognize eighth-grade students for excelling at the skills they’ll need to be successful in high school, and eventually college,” Freeman said. “We want to encourage students to continue that momentum.”
Middle School College Access Days are group visit opportunities designed specifically for young teens. Groups can sign up to spend a day on campus exploring academic opportunities at Nebraska; learning about academic and extracurricular opportunities; receiving tips on getting into college; and experiencing college life.
Access days also build each students’ college vocabulary, enhancing understanding of financial aid, residence hall life, and other topics that can create barriers to college plans.
Middle schools also have the opportunity to schedule a private campus tour for entire classes of students. The admissions team coordinates with middle schools to customize each visit to fit the need of each group.
Admissions saw an increase in the number of middle schools interested in bringing classes to campus. This year, the office hosted 19 middle school classes, up from 12 in 2018.
In addition to enhanced college events for eighth graders, Nebraska’s Office of Admissions is also expanding college-readiness programs to prepare students for a successful transition from high school.
Starting in eighth grade, students across Nebraska can participate in Next Chapter at Nebraska, a college-readiness program offered through Nebraska 4-H. Throughout high school, Next Chapter scholars will engage in events, activities and curriculum where they will participate in career exploration, develop research skills and experience a variety of learning methods that will help them transition to and succeed in college. Students can earn pre-admittance to Nebraska through the Next Chapter program.
“Shaping Nebraska’s future — and, more importantly, preparing future citizens of the world – starts with making sure students know that a Big Ten university education is accessible here in Nebraska,” Freeman said. “We can’t wait to be a part of students’ conversations as they plan their path to Nebraska.”