4 Ways Parents Can Help High School Students Succeed

High school can easily become an overwhelming experience. You and your student may face multiple obstacles, both academic and social, and you may thus be wondering, “How can I help my high school student succeed?”

Among other actions, parents can help high school students succeed by keeping current with teachers, helping students plan what classes to take, and establishing goals for the future. Supporting your student is key.

Here are four ways parents can help high school students succeed:

1. Help your high school student succeed by remaining up-to-date with teachers and grades

Parent-teacher communication can fall by the wayside as your child grows older. We sometimes believe that high school students are independent enough not to need face-to-face meetings between the adults in their lives, but high schoolers—like younger students—do best when supported by parents. One of the best ways to effectively support your child is to be in touch with his or her school. Attend your student’s open house or back-to-school night, which is often before school starts or at the beginning of the year. There, you can meet one or more of your child’s teachers, as well as any administration you’d like to talk to or hear from. You’ll get to know the vision of the school (if you’re not already familiar with it), as well as practical expectations from teachers and school policies for:

  • attendance

  • discipline

  • homework.

Attend parent-teacher conferences too. They may be less frequent than those in elementary or middle school, but they are great ways to stay in touch about how your child is doing in the specific class, as well as how he or she can improve. Remember that you can always initiate and set up an appointment with a teacher or administrator should a specific issue arise. Additionally, many schools now have online parent portals that provide access to student grades or allow parent-teacher communication.

[RELATED: High School Parent-Teacher Conferences: What to Ask]

2. Help your high school student succeed by planning which classes to take

In high school, more so than in middle school, students have a wider variety of classes to choose from. They’ll have core subjects—including English, history, math, and science—plus electives. Your child will likely meet with a school counselor before each semester to discuss course schedules, but take some time to discuss this with your student as well. In terms of core classes, consider the different levels of difficulty: honors, AP (Advanced Placement), and IB (International Baccalaureate) courses. If he or she is game, encourage your child to take AP or IB classes (if available). These courses give students a healthy challenge and a jump-start in college. They also look good on a college application. In terms of electives, encourage your student to take classes that could extend his or her knowledge of a potential career path or personal interest, or those that are just a great creative outlet.

3. Help your high school student succeed by encouraging participation in extracurricular activities

Extracurricular activities, especially in high school, have countless benefits. They help students become more invested in school, and can serve as opportunities to make friends. They help students get to know teachers (if they sponsor a club or team), as well as develop leadership and teamwork skills. They help students better articulate what they might like about a subject or possible career. They allow students to develop a healthy sense of independence.

Beyond clubs, sports, and teams at school, talk to your child about possible internships or service activities in the community. Some schools can connect students to internships with organizations they already have relationships with, and who are familiar with working with students. These types of commitments will offer your child real world experience and help him or her gain a better sense of what it means to be a member of the community.

4. Help your high school student succeed by making plans for college and beyond

Discuss college and career early on in high school so your student knows what to look forward to and how he or she might be able to get there. Help your child schedule standardized tests, like the SAT or ACT, and plan out a study schedule to break down prep into manageable chunks. Suggest resources, like test prep books and tutoring, that can act as supports. Speak with your student about his or her future aspirations, and make short and long-term goals to get there, even though these aspirations might change over the years. Visit colleges, if possible, and discuss with your child what he or she is looking for, and what would work best for your student’s learning style, future career, and finances.

The above tips can help you and your student make the most of high school. The idea is clear communication: with your student’s school, their teachers, and with your student. When checking in with your child regularly, you can better discern how to balance their independence with how you can support them academically—and emotionally—throughout this important time.

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