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9 Things Counselors Want Parents to Know About High School Success

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9 Things Counselors Want Parents to Know About High School

A new school year is like the first page of a new notebook: fresh and ready for a great story.

Your high school student is likely to be both excited and trepidatious about how this school year’s plot might turn out. But you and your student have at least one common goal - that this story has a happy ending no matter what obstacles lie ahead.

To help you out, we’ve collected advice from high school counselors and independent educational advisors on what really helps a student to succeed. Talk about it with your high school student and work together to make this the best year yet.

  • Change how you think about good grades.

    Everyone starts the year with an “A,” says educational consultant Shelly Humbach. So instead of thinking of that good grade as a mountain to climb, think of it as a slippery slope. The way to lose a good grade is to ignore the basics like submitting homework on time, completing optional assignments, and seeing teachers for extra help.

  • Set realistic goals with your high school student.

    Then, be the first to celebrate when your child reaches one of those goals, says Jake Talmage, director of college counseling at St. Paul’s School, an independent middle and high school for boys in Brooklandville, Maryland. And don’t get trapped in the “best” college frenzy. The best college for your child is the one that’s the best fit, not necessarily the one that’s your alma mater or that’s highest on the ranking lists.

  • Teach your high student how to get organized.

    There are all kinds of digital tools to keep track of assignments, due dates and tests, says educational planner Judi Robinovitz. Consider a free reminder e-site such as Memo To Me or college admission apps that keep you on track with applications. Have a specific place for all school- and college-related materials.

  • If your high school student is a junior or senior, create a “college-free zone.”

    Establish a specific, predictable time when talking about applications, college essays or test prep is forbidden, says Barbara Tragakis Conner, director of college counseling for the Foxcroft School, in Middleburg, Virginia. Lower the stress level so your high school student can focus on daily life and family activities. “Most families decide to set aside one day each week – often Sundays – as their college-free zones, Conner says. “Over the years, I have heard this dedicated time referred to as a ‘sanity saver’ and a ‘life saver’ by seniors and their parents.”

  • Be wary of dismissing non-academic activities as time wasters.

    Parents might think designing tattoos, organizing a birthday party for a friend, or playing in a garage band a total bust. But what is the activity telling you about your teen’s passions and interests? Talk with your high school student about how to turn what might seem like a debit into an asset on a high school resume.

  • Procrastination is the enemy.

    Whether your child is putting off an English term paper or writing a college essay, the tendency to put things off is killer, advises Marilyn G.S. Emerson, founder of Emerson Educational Consulting. So don’t just nag, help find solutions. The Pomodoro Method, for example, teaches how to work in 30-minute increments that include a five-minute break for mindless Snapchatting.

  • Think now about the skills your high school student will need in college and help develop them.

    Whether college is one year or four years away, you need to get your student prepared to launch. Think about how to encourage teamwork, problem-solving and resilience this year so your high school student is ready to leave the nest. (P.S. Some laundry skills wouldn’t hurt, either.)

  • Encourage your high school student to build relationships with teachers.

    This not only helps students feel more comfortable participating in class (important for keeping that good grade), but is critical for college recommendation letters, says Sally Rubenstone, an advisor with College Confidential.

  • Face any problems head on – together.

    Sometimes even the best high school students struggle with an assignment, a disciplinary issue, or a bad grade. Keep the discussion focused on solutions, not the failure, and brainstorm with your child what went wrong. And always, always let your student know it’s safe to ask for help, whether it’s from your, a teacher, a peer or a tutor.

To continue receiving tips that will help you navigate the choppy waters of adolescence, subscribe to TeenLife’s mailing list. You won’t regret it!




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Written by Marie Schwartz

Marie Schwartz is the CEO & Founder of TeenLife Media. Marie launched TeenLife in 2007 after moving to Boston with her husband and two middle school sons and discovering that there were no information resources for families with older children. Today, TeenLife's award-winning website lists thousands of summer and gap year programs, schools, college admission resources, and volunteer opportunities for teens, nationwide.

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