Whether you currently have a toddler at home or you've found that the years have flown by and you're now parenting a high schooler, you should be proactively preparing your child for a lifetime of learning. For most people, that means college is on the agenda. Now, I'm not saying that you should be spending tens of thousands of dollars on private preschool tuition in the hopes that your child will one day attend Princeton (though, if that's your choice, so be it); what I am saying is that from toddlerhood onward, there are ideas and practices that you can institute that will help your child be mentally prepared not only to be accepted into the college of his choice, but to be successful once he gets there. 

Read more ¿Qué más?: Start prepping your middle schoolers for college, here's how

Read on for our age-specific tips for preparing your kids for college.

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Toddlerhood & Pre-School 1

Toddlerhood & Pre-School

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Instead of throwing all of your time and resources into sending your child to a pre-K that will prepare him for an education at some school he may never desire to attend, try giving your toddler some freedom.

  • Let your child play independently and with as few limitations as possible as much and for however long he wants. Independent play builds confidence, fosters creativity and security and teaches problem solving, among other things--all skills he will need to be successful in college.
  • And don't forget to read to your child daily, from birth. Reading will benefit your baby developmentally while instilling a love for books from an early age, which will build skills that help teens do well on standardized tests.

Elementary School 2

Elementary School

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Again, your goals should be building confidencing and establishing a love for learning.

  • Help your child master basic reading, writing and math skills in a fun way. With a solid foundation in the basics of learning, he will feel capable and is likely to approach new subjects with gusto, rather than feeling intimidated.
  • Help your child try out various hobbies and start to get a feel for what she enjoys and what her unique interests are.
  • Start talking to your child in a casual manner about what high school and college are, and what they mean for her future.

Middle School 3

Middle School

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Now's the time to really start planting seeds.

  • Talk to your kids about how important it is to focus on their studies and achieve good grades going into high school. If they don't do well in middle school, they may be put on a less challenging track in high school, which will affect how they are perceived by college admissions representatives.
  • Encourage your children to focus on a few of their favorite hobbies and extracurriculars, so that they can improve their skills in those areas in time for high school which is usually much more competitive academically and athletically.
  • Take your kids on day trips to university towns. It will help build some excitement about the future and help keep the goal of attending and graduating college at the forefronts of their minds.

High School 4

High School

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Hopefully your high schooler has already started thinking about college, but if he hasn't there are a few things you can do to give him a jump start.

  • Ask your child what he wants to do for a living, and talk to him about what steps he needs to take to get there. Facts are best, your opinion could discourage him.
  • Help him figure out if his course of study in high school meets the requirements of schools he is interested in.
  • Take him to visit different schools that have good programs related to his interests. You can do this casually and/or with an official tour.
  • Help him figure out how to prepare for the SATs and ACTs.