Image credit: Jeremy Jenum

Guest post by Bronwyn O’Malley, Marketer and Blogger

High school was hard when I was a teen, but feels like a cakewalk compared to the current demands on students to get into college. College admission has become much more competitive, and today’s teens find themselves under a great deal of pressure. Here are 10 ideas for helping your teen through their high school days and into the college of their dreams.

  1. Help your teen enjoy learning for learning’s sake. Emphasize that learning is not just something they do to get into college. Ninth and tenth graders are often unsure of what they are interested in. It’s important for them to just be going to high school without the enormous pressure to figure out their passion and how they will build a college resume. Denise Pope, senior lecturer at Stanford and co-founder of Challenge Success, urges parents to get kids excited about what they are learning instead of just playing the game.
  2. Make sure your teen gets enough rest to stay healthy and alert. Teens’ bodies and minds need nine hours of sleep a night, yet average six. Media and technology can become overstimulating and distracting. So at night make a family agreement that all devices come out of the bedroom, so that your teen’s precious slumber is not disrupted by a 1 am text or the need to check the latest status of their BFF.
  3. Help your teen focus on the process not the product.  If you find you need to incentivize your student, focus on the number of hours committed to studying versus the grade she made on a test.  Make sure your teen builds in time for planning when to do activities, HW and study so that there is room for learning and processing information.
  4. Engage your teen in an honest discussion about cheating. Unfortunately, there is a real problem with cheating in schools. Discuss it in the context of what your children might see around them, rather than suggesting they are going to do it. Kids are trying to deal with school pressures in some bad and good ways.  Talk about the seriousness of an incident on their record. Share the belief that it’s not about the grades, but that they’re ethical and work hard.
  5. Listen to your teen’s concerns about APs. Be open to what your child might have to say, even if it wasn’t what you were expecting. Avoid loading tons of pressure onto your child to take multiple APs if you’re getting pushback. Data suggests it’s actually not healthy to take as many AP classes as possible, so help your teen find a good balance.
  6. Encourage your teen to own the process of finding and getting into college. Break college planning down into short-term and long-term tasks in a shared family file or use a free online service like College Mapper. Kids can run it but you have an account to view the progress and to ask experts questions.  Kids need to do as much of the planning as they can to be confident in their abilities to get things done independently.
  7. Help your teen  cast a wide net when investigating colleges. Suggest they do deep research with a website like Cappex or with campus tours by YOUniversityTV to select a group of colleges that best matches their needs and interests (e.g., acceptance rate, small vs. big, geography, financial, lesson quality,  field of study, etc.)
  8. Tell your teen it’s okay to follow their own path when it comes to selecting colleges. “Families need to get beyond the same 20-30 schools everyone else is looking at when there are 3,000 out there.”  Denise Pope says: “What makes a “good” school for one kid might not necessarily be so for another. Parents need to think beyond where they or their own friends attended school”.
  9. Let your teen know there’s not always a direct route to college. Some people take a gap year to travel or work getting some time off the studying wheel and exploring more options. Some take a community college route to save money, get general education credits out of the way and then head to a four year university that they really want to attend but might not have easily gotten into as a freshman.
  10. Help your teen balance school, HW, work and extracurricular activities with family ones. Encourage lots of good old-fashioned fun to break up the load. Ditch all the screens and spend some real quality time with your family. Attend a professional or college game, take a hike, do a manicure, a concert, bake cookies, wash the car, make caramel popcorn for a game night, see a play, go fishing, take a craft class, play catch like you used to, go bowling or plan a family trip together.