While the bulk of college prep happens at the tail end of high school, signs of college readiness start to emerge as early as third grade. We asked local tutors and educators to offer college prep tips for younger learners.

Our panel of education experts includes Lisa Romero, a veteran math teacher, tutor and owner of LR Learning Center, Bryan Redditt, owner of Huntington Learning Center of Little Rock and Charlotte Foster, owner of Sylvan Learning Center of Little Rock. Foster has worked as a math specialist for the state and the elementary math specialist at Missouri Western State University.

Sign 1: Hitting the (Bench)mark

Our experts agree that checking in on your kid’s progress is an A+ move. Romero drilled down to specifics for younger learners.

Elementary Math Benchmarks
For math, “researchers can use a student’s proficiency with fractions and division to predict high school and college math achievement.”

Sweet Tip: If your kid is burnt out on fractions, she cooked up a delicious solution. “Do something fun like baking together to use fractions; fractions are used all the time in the kitchen.”

Elementary Literacy Benchmarks
“We want kids to be reading independently by the third grade,” she said. This crucial milestone allows students to become independent learners.

Story Smarts: The easiest way to help kids work on their reading skills is to read with them. But Romero says parents can’t stop there. “Talk about the story with your child. Ask questions as you read. See if they can guess what will happen next. Ask them if there are any words they do not understand.” This will help grow their fluency and comprehension.

Sign 2: “I Can’t ...Yet” Attitude

We quizzed each education expert on attitudes that help students succeed.

Persistence: “Successful students are not afraid to try. They will work on an assignment and not have a fear of failure. Successful students will try, fail at some things, learn and try again,” Foster said.

Growth Mindset: A growth mindset is an important indicator for Romero, especially as kids tackle tough topics. “An example of a growth mindset in a student is one who says, ‘I may need more time for this,’ rather than, ‘This is too hard for me.’”

Drive: Redditt has noticed driven students have clear goals — like test scores and dream colleges — to work toward.

Parenting Pro-Tip: Parents may need an attitude check, too. Foster says “students know when parents respect school and when they don’t.”

Sign 3: Next-Level Study Skills

Developing a solid foundation of study skills now will take your student through high school and beyond. Redditt outlines his top six habits of successful students. They will:

• Find the best time to study.

• Learn to plan ahead.

• Keep materials organized.

• Take good notes.

• Develop a study schedule.

• Build foundational research skills.

Next Steps: Knowing When to Step In

If you know your child’s benchmark progress, attitudes and study skills, it will be easy to know when your child is struggling — or excelling — and in turn, where they need more attention or even professional tutoring.

For struggling students, you want to step in before they spiral. “When a child is struggling it really can lower their confidence which then lowers their motivation to even try to do well,” said Redditt. For students who excel, Romero suggests tutoring or enrichment “to keep up their love and interest in learning.”