Planning for College Your High School Path

Parents, Here are Some Basics for Keeping your High School Student on the College Track

Your guidance and involvement as a parent during your son’s or daughter’s high school years are very important to their high school success and later to their college experience.

Phew! Your son or daughter is finally entering high school! No more classroom volunteering, no more cookies for parties, no more leading your child by the hand into school!

Sorry. Plan again. Your guidance and involvement during your son’s or daughter’s high school years are very important to their high school success and for their college applications.

High school students look like and try to act like adults, but, precisely because they are becoming more independent and going through such large changes, they need their parents’ help even more. High school may mean less visible involvement for you as parents, but your involvement will be even more intense. Here are some areas for you to consider for keeping your high school student’s education on track right up to and through college.

It All Starts the Summer before their Freshman Year in High School

Before students enter high school, it’s time for the the basic talk. This talk will set the stage for the student’s high school experience because it will establish expectations, define goals, and forge a line of open communication that may well be needed in the next four years. Discuss

  • the shared value and importance of education and a college degree;
  • the goals you have for your child and the goals s/he has for the future;
  • what role and awareness you want to have with your student as a high school student;
  • the expectation you have for their study times, curfews, and activities;
  • the need for a balance between study, play, activities, and work;
  • what choices of classes and activities (in school and out-of-school) will challenge and promote your student’s interests; and
  • how your son or daughter can be a good citizen and school leader as well as how s/he can build a reputation that reflects good work ethic and character.

You should also consider a visit to the high school counselor before or at the beginning of your student’s first year in high school. It is good to look at and discuss a survey of the course of study your student will take for the next four years, and it is important to establish a rapport with the counselor who may be following your student for the next four years. It is best to have a good working relationship with his counselor as s/he will be the first touch stone for subsequent questions, help, and problem solving.

Now things should be up front. Your son or daughter will know you are not disappearing, and the school will see you will be a concerned parent.

What Parents Can Do Throughout the Four Years of High School

Through all four years—yes, even the junior and seniors years—parents should be aware and watchful. What can you do during these fast-paced years when the school itself seems harder to navigate and classes are so many and varied it’s hard to keep track of things?  Actually, there are several steps you can take routinely which will assure your student has a good high school experience.

  • Read all available school informational materials – Make sure you see and read the school handbook, rules and policies of the school, guidance department newsletters, letters to parents, and those beginning-of-the-year classroom/teacher expectation handouts. It is important you understand the teacher’s expectations, the way grades are figured, and how important homework and attendance are. It is also important you go over these guidelines with your son or daughter. Everyone needs to be on the same page to avoid confusion and ignorance that might hurt your son or daughter later on.
  • Establish a relationship with the teachers and staff – Make sure to attend any teacher conferences or open houses to meet the teachers your student has for classes. Call the teachers and/or email them to check on the progress of your student, but be sure to contact teachers for things that are positive, too. Then you become more of a support to both your student and the teacher. Be seen; attend school functions and introduce yourself.
  • Make sure your student has good attendance – It is important for students to attend their classes. Even a one-day absence can interrupt the understanding and work of a class. Check in with the attendance office at school to make sure there are no tardies or absences you are not aware of. When making appointments for your son or daughter, make them for after-school hours, taking into account need for study time and after school work. If there is an absence, have your student check in with teachers to get work missed; you also need to check what is missing and what the deadlines for makeup are. In the case of an extended absence, call ahead to the guidance department to compile a homework packet to assure work is done before it piles up too much. Some schools have homework listed on-line.
  • Encourage your student’s regular contact with teachers and counselors – Impress upon your student how important it is to have an easy and effective way of checking in with the adults in his or her life at school. Ask them to make an appointment with their guidance counselor before it is required to ask a few questions. Explain how contact could be stopping by to say hello or using resources about college or study skills in the counselor’s or teacher’s offices.
  • Be pro-active, not re-active – Don’t wait for the shoe to drop and then rush in. Regular contact with teachers, monitoring homework daily, looking at graded quizzes and papers weekly, keeping track of when marking quarters end, and making sure students’ grades are not a problem even before warning notices are sent or before the last two weeks prior to the closing of grades all help you stay on top of what is happening. If you sit back, you will be in the dark. Then that glaring light of realization may be too late and too shocking for an adequate fix.
  • Help your student stay organized – Make sure your student has date planners, notebooks, folders, and other materials that can help him/her stay organized. Talk about organization and demand organization around your house for practice. Model the organization you use in your own work. Part of any organization is time management. Talk with your student about long-term projects and discuss how time can be broken down and parsed out to help your student avoid last minute rushes and the burdens of procrastination.

TIRED? DON’T GIVE IN YET; THERE’S MORE!

  • Encourage good study habits – Establish study times, work along with your student doing your bills or writing and reading to model concentration and getting what-has-to-be-done done before sitting and watching television. Use on-line resources to hone your student’s study skills or enroll him/her in a class in study skills. Reward good work habits and make it clear what limitations will be in effect when studying is not done well and regularly.
  • Monitor your student’s out-of-class life – Your student’s life out-of-class may well affect in-class behavior. Be sure your student understands what you define as responsible behavior. Meet your son’s or daughter’s friends and encourage their spending time with those friends who share your family’s values. Enforce curfews and keep school nights free of distractions. Limit driving and other unsupervised activities and have a sure way of maintaining regular contact with your son or daughter when they are unsupervised. Make sure work hours do not encroach on school, activities, and study times. Meet the possibility of drug and alcohol use head on. Direct conversation many times can head off problems. Seek help both in the school and from the community, if your student is having problems.

What if There is a Problem?

If your student is having an academic or behavioral problem at school, there are several paths you can take.

  • First, contact the teacher or administrator involved. It is often best to have a meeting of all your student’s teachers and other staff (vice-principal, study hall monitor, tutor, etc.) connected to her to check on the overall performance. It may be a limited problem or it may be affecting all the areas in his school life.
  • Next contact the guidance counselor or nurse for further advice and aid as well as more complete monitoring.
  • In addition, for academic problems, make sure your student is working at least one or two nights after school with the teacher for extra help. If that is not enough, ask the teacher for recommendations for tutoring. One-on-one tutoring will often be well worth any money you may spend. Make sure school activities are not interfering. Academics should come first, which is generally school policy. Coaches are particularly helpful in encouraging academic success and allowing extra time from practices for extra help and study time.
  • In addition, for behavioral problems, involve your student in activities that are productive uses of time, like joining a school team, babysitting, taking an after school class in an area of interest. New interests and less idle time can help the student feel better about himself. Ask people who know him, like a trusted teacher or coach, to have a talk with him and mentor him. Sometimes, professional counseling or programs can be of use.

There is more to the life of a high school student, which means there is more you as a parent must keep track of. Students need help making the right choices, using their time wisely, and setting their priorities. You can help!