Every year, stories of high school seniors getting into great colleges saturate headlines from March through April. This year, it was Michael Brown, the Houston senior who got full rides from 20 universities. As parents, we hope our kids will be so lucky.
But here's the deal: hope without a plan of action leads to disappointment and frustration. With college on the line, stakes are too high to leave to luck. Here are 3 things we can do to set our rising 9th graders up to have their own headline-worthy college story four years from now.
1. Preview the next four years.
Just as we would no sooner hop in the car for a road-trip without a map, we should not allow our 8th graders to start high school without a sense of where they are going and the tools/supplies they'll need to successfully navigate the journey.
They need to know where the critical benchmarks are and how the puzzle of course-selection, GPA, testing, extracurriculars and summer experiences fit together. Otherwise, they'll look up at the start of their junior year and wish they'd known how important it was to be more intentional about their high school experiences.
2. Begin with the end in mind.
One of the most powerful lessons I learned as a teacher was how to backwards plan. By starting with what you want to be true at the end, you can create experiences that lead to complete, robust learning for students. Though I'm no longer in the classroom, I find backwards planning works everywhere. When it's taught as a strategy to kids, they learn how to be intentional in creating their own learning experiences that will get them to the place they ultimately want to be.
Let's say your daughter dreams of studying policy/government relations in college. Knowing that's what she wants to be true at the end of her senior year, she can be more intentional about which AP courses she prioritizes, which internships she seeks out for the summer, and which teachers/adults she seeks out as mentors. Absent some sense of where she's trying to go, she'd likely just trudge along.
Some might be thinking: "Sounds like she's committing to a major in high school. Isn't it early for that? Can't we let kids be kids?" The way you learn what you do and don't like is by trying things out. What typically happens in this process is that students set their sights on an "end," take steps in that direction and realize one of three things: 1) they really like what they are doing, and they keep going; 2) they like some parts of what they are doing and adjust course (so maybe not US policy, but international policy); or 3) they realize they were all wrong and want to explore something else.
At the end of their high school years, your son/daughter will have learned more about themselves than if they'd not taken this approach, and they'll be able to take that knowledge and wealth of experience with them to college. If they wait until college, this discovery of self becomes a much more costly experience.
3. Schedule a weekly check-in.
Your role as a parent to a high schooler looks more like a manager or a coach. In the same way managers have weekly check-ins with their direct reports to talk through priorities for the week, as well as what worked and what didn't the previous week, high school parents need to do that with their teens.
Through these check-ins, you'll:
- Begin to shift the ownership (of their education) from you to your teen. They'll learn how to manage up and communicate their needs, ultimately telling you what they need to be successful rather than you telling them;
- Help your teen learn to reflect and see their grades as a direct result of their actions, which will ultimately teach them how to do things that align with the outcome they want;
- Give you the opportunity to coach them through trouble spots (i.e. the teacher who "can't teach" or doesn't like them, the group member who doesn't pull his/her load, or the panic of feeling overwhelmed with all that has to be done); and
- Create a space for you and your teen to connect and have an open line of communication. This may seem like a small thing, but trust me, you'll want and love this sacred time–especially as they get closer and closer to leaving for college.
And don't feel like you have to wait for school to start to kick this off. It's actually better to start when the stakes are low. Imagine a weekly "date" with your teen to talk about what he/she has planned for the week, what's on your plate and how you'll work in sync (who has the car, who's cooking dinner, what time they'll be home, etc.). There's only one requirement for these meetings: You have to be consistent. If you say you're going to meet every Sunday morning over breakfast at 9am, then commit to it. If you de-prioritize this or let your son/daughter off this just this one time, you'll weaken the habit and lose credibility as a manager.
None of these things are hard to do, but they will require intentionality on your part as a parent and from your child. This summer, July 30-August 3, Crumbine Ed is hosting Plan. Succeed. High School Edition to help 9th graders start their freshman year with a plan to succeed. During this 5-day camp, your child will:
- preview the next four years;
- create a long-term vision (4 year) and a short-term vision with an action plan for their freshman year;
- identify their strengths (and challenge areas) and learn how to engage them;
- define their personal time management and organization system; and
- learn how to manage up using effective communication strategies.
Click the button below to learn more and to schedule a discovery call to see if Plan. Succeed. is right for your son/daughter.