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The Connecticut State University System (CSUS), which includes Western Connecticut State University, has collaborated on a series of activity pages for middle school classroom use aimed at encouraging students to begin taking the steps necessary to prepare for college.

The series, called “Middle School Steps 2 College,” includes a variety of interactive activities, key facts and discussion points, suggested ways to learn more about college preparation, and suggestions on how to use available resources at home, school and in the community.

The college readiness series is divided into four steps: “Find Someone 2 Help,” “Push Yourself,” “Find the Right Fit,” and “Figure Out the Finances.” The material can be downloaded from the CSUS website at www.ct.edu/initiatives/readiness/#know.

Studies in recent years have found that the middle school years can be pivotal. A report by ACT found that "making sure all eighth-grade students have attained the knowledge and skills that put them on target to becoming ready for college and career is the single most important step that can be taken to improve their college and career readiness."

The series was originally developed as a collaborative initiative between CSUS, KnowHow2Go, and the Hartford Courant’s “Newspapers In Education” program. It has been published by the Courant and used in numerous classrooms across the state. KnowHow2GO is a national public service campaign that combines education, community-based and government partnerships to raise awareness among low-income and first-generation students in grades 8 through 10 about preparing for college. Connecticut's KnowHow2GO initiative is coordinated by the State Department of Education, Department of Higher Education, and a coalition of public and private organizations, including the CSUS.

“We can’t wait until high school to put college on students’ radar screens,” said Theresa Eberhard Asch, a member of the executive committee of the CSUS Board of Trustees, and a former middle school assistant principal. “We do a disservice to our children if we do not prepare them adequately to succeed in college and establish a solid foothold in the 21st century economy.”

The “Middle School Steps 2 College” series was endorsed by the Department of Higher Education and State Department of Education. The activity pages, which can be used in classroom, community center or at-home discussions, urge students to "take on the tough classes" in school.

The CSUS Board of Trustees voted last year to strengthen admission requirements for Central, Eastern, Southern and Western. The new standards, which include English, math, science, social studies and world languages, are slated to take effect in 2015. See www.ct.edu/initiatives/admission for more information. The CSUS website (www.ct.edu) also highlights a number of initiatives currently under way to assist middle school and high school students in preparing for college, including programs developed in recent years at each of the universities in collaboration with educators in local communities.

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Western has a number of programs designed to encourage college readiness, especially in Science-Technology-Engineering-Math disciplines, and these programs now start as early as middle school.