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Have an Incoming High School Freshman? Start Talking Now.

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talk before high school

High school is a new adventure - and one with more peer pressure than ever before. Your child will make academic decisions affecting future education options; make new friends, lose some friends; have relationship drama; and often see you as the enemy. Your child will also grow in maturity and become more and more independent. These years are exciting, difficult, stressful, overwhelming, gratifying, and so much more.

So, you should sit down with your freshman now and have a discussion about the next four years.

Why do this so early? Because “without a plan, you plan to fail.” And once college-bound teens understand the process and participate in setting goals, they are more likely to stay focused and on track. Additionally, this sets the stage for shared communication. If teenagers understand that you are open and available to discuss decisions without being pushy, accusatory, or judgmental, they will be more likely to seek your assistance in the future.

Here’s what to talk about:

Now is the time to get serious

Reiterate the importance of education and good grades and how they affect the future. It all begins freshman year. A low freshman GPA makes it more difficult each year to improve the score. Freshman year is the foundation for the next four.

Your role as a parent

Say that you will be available to help your child throughout high school and during the college process. But ... you expect your child to take responsibility, as well, by meeting deadlines, studying, and fulfilling any family obligations.

Set basic expectations

Explain the importance of abiding by curfews, maintaining good study habits, and the balance between study and extracurricular activities. If teenagers know what is expected of them, there will be no question when rules are broken.

The high school course plan

Discuss the classes that will be required for college and devise a four-year plan to assure that those classes fit a high school schedule. You should have some idea by now what courses have been suggested and which courses will fit your teen’s interests. Nothing has to be written in stone, however. This is just a planning session. Once you meet with the high school counselor, you can adjust.

Think about careers

Begin talking about what your teen would like to do as an adult and encourage activities that line up with those interests. Do this without pressure. Students can explore various careers in high school by being mentored, talking with friends and family about their careers, and even working at internships.

The value of a good reputation

Help teenagers understand how their reputations will influence the way others see them and respond. Bad reputations tend to follow you through high school and can make it difficult when asking for letters of recommendation for college admissions. This particularly extends to social media. Colleges are now using social media profiles to help with the college admissions decision.

Good citizenship

Impress the importance of being a good citizen and being involved in school and community. Encourage volunteering and offer help when necessary.

Work ethic

This is the time to stress the importance of a strong work ethic, which will affect study habits, volunteer activities, student involvement, and finally, the pursuit of college acceptance.

Peer pressure

In an effort to fit in and be accepted, many students make poor decisions and bad choices. Reinforce that wise choices will produce positive consequences; bad choices will produce negative consequences. Encourage teenagers to come to you with any bullying they might experience or any peer pressure that feels overwhelming.

High school brings so much hope for the future but it can also be a stressful time for you and your student. Having a discussion early in the year will help students transition into high school with a positive attitude and a good foundation for the next four years.

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Written by Suzanne Shaffer

Suzanne Shaffer counsels parents and students in the college admissions process and the importance of early college preparation. Her Parents Countdown to College Coach blog offers timely college tips for parents and students, as well as providing parents with the resources necessary to help their college-bound teens navigate the college maze.

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