The Most Important Piece of College Prep Advice

Remember the days when you had parent meetings every fall with your child’s elementary teacher? These low-key, early meetings were intended to ensure that your child was on track for a successful school year.

Today, even though our kids are much older, taller and more independent, an early year check is still required.

With this in mind, once the first progress report is in or the first assessments come back, I recommend setting up a time with your child to have a meeting.  Not just a “catch you before dinner” chat either, a real meeting.  It’s important to let your child know that you’re there to help assess how things are going and decide if any additional support is needed (it’s a good idea to check in with your college freshman now as well!).

One of the questions I hear most often is “What’s the most important thing my child can do to get ready for and expand her choices for college?”

The answer is very straight forward: Colleges want to see good grades in the most challenging curriculum that a student can reasonably handle. No magic formula, just keeping up with the daily work and getting help at the first sign of any struggle.

Many times, however, your child may not open up to you regarding areas in which they need help.  They may hope the issue resolves itself or simply ignore it.  Needless to say, this is not a wise approach, as things can quickly snowball.

If your child is not communicative with you, an email to a teacher or guidance counselor may be needed – ask one of those adults to check in and see how your child is doing.  If your child is on an Ed Plan, his liaison needs to know there is a problem early on and help make a plan of action. Sometimes all that is needed is some afterschool help from a teacher or a little bit of tutoring.

Remember that understanding when it’s time to ask for help is an important skill that will be needed routinely in order to be successful at college.  Often, your child may recognize that they are struggling but be reluctant to ask for help. Getting over this reluctance in high school is an important step toward their college readiness.

In addition to content help at school, some students need help with overall study, planning, time management and organization skills. If they are not getting this through an academic study setting at school, it may make sense to look for an academic coach to help with these “executive function”* skills. These skills are critical to their continued success as a student.

[*Executive function is a set of mental processes that helps connect past experience with present action. People use it to perform activities such as planning, organizing, strategizing, paying attention to and remembering details, and managing time and space. Source:]

The most important thing to remember is that whether your child is just adjusting to high school as a freshman or is now a senior juggling college applications, early October is a time to assess if any additional help is needed – and to make a plan to get it.

Once a problem is identified, and a plan of action is put into place, you can hopefully back off again and let your student follow through independently!

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