12/23/2014 09:55 pm ET Updated Feb 22, 2015

Preparing Students for College Begins Earlier Than Most Parents Expect

High school seniors who applied Early Decision or Early Action to their first choice colleges in November are now hearing whether they've been admitted. In the New Rochelle schools, we have been fortunate to learn our students have been accepted so far to Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Northwestern University, University of Notre Dame, University of Pennsylvania, The College of William and Mary, and Yale University.

Yet the college admissions journey for our students didn't start this year, or even in high school. In New Rochelle, we offer opportunities for children to visit colleges while they're still in elementary school. Children from Columbus School recently visited Iona College. A counselor gave kids and their parents a tour of the campus, answered questions, and discussed the courses to take in high school to best prepare for higher learning.

Our district also does early work in middle school to support college readiness. Just this week, Guidance Counselor Martha Rodriguez at Isaac E. Young Middle School launched an unprecedented yearlong college visit program. The school has 1,155 students, 61% Hispanic. For the first time, 8th graders will be taken out of school class by class to explore nearby colleges. Many of these students are children of new immigrants; many of their parents have never stepped foot on a college campus.

Another critical way to get students college ready is by offering world language beginning in elementary school. There is a great deal of evidence showing the cognitive and social benefits of bilingualism. In New Rochelle, we offer numerous language programs, including a rigorous dual language program. Our district has also been chosen to be part of the pilot effort determining how New York State's new State Seal of Biliteracy will be implemented. Students who obtain the Seal of Biliteracy will be recognized for studying and attaining proficiency in two or more languages by the time they graduate high school.

Educators must recognize each step in a child's educational journey leads to college readiness - not just the final few. The graduating class of 2027 is preparing right now.