Wednesday’s Parent: College prep New Year spoiler alert

College prep spoiler alert

College prep spoiler alert

Common folklore ushers in the New Year with dreams of new beginnings but these idyllic hopes can rot the very core of college prep. Students have an academic, extracurricular and social history that can’t be ignored. A fresh start, by its nature, emphasizes the now without incorporating previous accomplishments. Meanwhile, successful preparation for college builds on the past, enhances strengths, and fortifies weaknesses. Without considering what was, students are at a huge disadvantage when considering what will be.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. It’s okay to take stock and want to improve via a host of good-intentioned New Year’s Resolutions. However, for most people, these fail before the end of the first month of the year. What a waste of time and renewed energy!

In College-bound can nix New Year’s resolutions for this, I suggest students pick one thing within their control to focus on and change for the better. Read the article for specific suggestions that are geared to achieving both college and career goals. They are based on the categories of changing a personal characteristic, daily life activity, or learning something new. By choosing one thing, chances are this positive modification will become a permanent practice. And it’s common knowledge how hard it is to break a habit!

Parents of the college-bound can use the same resolution substitution idea zeroing in on one thing to change. Wednesday’s Parent: Emotion management 101 has five key areas to choose from that will make a big difference and Wednesday’s Parent: 3 ways to prep middle schoolers for college prep can be adapted for use with high school students. If you haven’t already begun your own parent-student team, now is the time to get going. In Wake-Up Call for Parents of the College-Bound, the mechanics are detailed.

Lots of changes are coming as the parent-child relationship morphs into a parent-adult child relationship. Parents can smooth the way for the new family dynamic that is growing the same time students are entering the college admission process. Enjoy your front row seat to the birth of a brand new adult!

Read Suzanne’s post: New Year’s Resolutions and College Prep

Read more: Wednesday’s Parent: Change New Year’s Resolutions into Selfie-Recommendations

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Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Suzanne and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound. 

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from www.pocsmom.com to http://www.parentscountdowntocollegecoach.com/ and vice versa.

 

 

College prep over the holidays

Mixing Happy Holidays with college prep. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Mixing Happy Holidays with college prep. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

The school holiday break is approaching fast raising the dilemma of where college prep fits in. Should it be dropped giving students a chance to relax and have fun jeopardizing momentum or should it keep going full speed ahead risking burnout? Is there a satisfying middle where the college-bound won’t lose any ground?

Join Smart College Visit’s Twitter chat #CampusChat on Wednesday, December 17 at 9 pm ET to participate in the discussion about college prep over the holidays. It’s open mic night with me, Wendy David-Gaines of #WednesdaysParent, guest hosting. 

Read Wednesday’s Parent Night on #CampusChat! to learn how to join a twitter chat.

Bring your tips, comments and questions about college prep stocking stuffers, what should/not be on the college prep to do list, and more. See you there!

RECAP: Don’t worry if you missed any great tips from our College prep over the holidays #CampusChat on 12/17/14. Read our transcript

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Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

Suzanne and I host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Except this month, we are hosting an open mic night on Wednesday, December 17. Bring your questions and comments about college prep over the holidays!

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from www.pocsmom.com to http://www.parentscountdowntocollegecoach.com/ and vice versa.

Wednesday’s Parent: Savvy shoppers have an advantage in the college process

Savvy shoppers have an advantage but no guarantees in the college process. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Savvy shoppers have an advantage but no guarantees in the college process. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

From shopping for food staples to procuring college diplomas, parents and students do better when they are conscientious consumers. It’s about understanding needs, assessing quality and matching budget. For big or little ticket purchases, savvy shoppers know to look beyond the marketing and research the product. As for the higher education choice, buyer beware because there are no warranties or guarantees.

I asked this classic question in a former article:

Is college a love match or a consumer purchase?

meaning If the goal is to find the best pick out of several thousand possibilities, should students look for student-college chemistry or search for a smart consumer purchase? The problem is the brain’s logic may not be in balance with the heart’s choice, especially when brand names are involved. And brand names usually come with a premium price.

A fascinating lesson in brand name economics from the Library of Economics and Liberty phrased this question:

(T)he question is not whether consumers are ignorant or irrational when they pay a higher price for a brand-name product, but whether they are paying too much for the additional quality assurance brand names necessarily provide.

Students or parents may want a brand name school. Name recognition in the market place, association with quality, and bragging rights are powerful lures. But “generic” brands offer something special, too. Students may receive an equally great education at a better price. Also, just because families are not familiar with a particular college, doesn’t mean it lacks a good reputation among its peers, graduates, employers, local area, region and those in the know.

It takes a lot more effort to dig deeper and learn about a school’s uniqueness, programs and opportunities. Knowing that successful graduates come from a wide variety of colleges can motivate the process to look beyond the amenities of luxury dorm rooms, brand names and fancy stadiums to find the place that will lead to best chance for student success during and after college. Maybe that’s a brand name or maybe it isn’t. Savvy consumers will take the time to find out.

Take a moment to reread the “Get selfish” part of Wednesday’s Parent: 5 fantastic tips to refine a college list. Connect with your inner consumer to find your college deal and read how value is based on what the student has done to maximize his higher education opportunities and make every college dollar count wherever he attends in Discover your college warranty

Read Suzanne’s post: A Rose by Any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet

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Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

Suzanne and I host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Except this month, we are hosting an open mic night on Wednesday, December 17. Bring your questions and comments about college prep over the holidays! 

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from www.pocsmom.com to http://www.parentscountdowntocollegecoach.com/ and vice versa.

Wednesday’s Parent: 3 ways to prep middle schoolers for college prep

3 ways to prep middle schoolers for college. Photo by Wendy-David-Gaines

3 ways to prep middle schoolers for college. Photo by Wendy-David-Gaines

If your teeny bopper is anything like mine were, college is an unformed dream without tangible reality. It may be taken for granted as a future educational goal, but high school has more allure and meaning to a middle schooler. Parents can grab this as an opportunity to prep for college prep.

Work load increases and studies go more in depth as students switch from one classroom with a sole teacher to many classes taught by experts in each subject. How young teens handle the transition can lay the groundwork for higher education.

It’s human nature to do one’s best when vested in the process. Failure to do this can be extremely costly in time and money during the college process. So here are three ways parents can prep their middle schoolers for college prep:

Establish a work ethic: All the business attributes apply to the job of “student” including being conscientious, meeting deadlines, and having pride in doing quality work. Families can agree on and set reasonable expectations, rewards and consequences so everyone is on the same page.

Use intrinsic self-motivators: Sleep is a huge motivator for thinking clearly and creatively. Electronic media, caffeine consumption, and early wake-up disrupt natural sleep patterns of adolescents putting them at risk for depression, obesity, delinquent behaviors, depression, impaired judgment, and psychological stress according to a report released in August by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Adequate sleep and rest must be a family priority.

Form a parent/student team: Parents and students can form an organized and routine way to communicate, work toward and accomplish what is needed. The object is to formally focus on students achieving their educational and career goals. Creating regular meeting times and ground rules like listening and respecting everyone’s opinion goes a long way to reducing emotion and nagging. Don’t forget to make celebrating accomplishments part of the deal!

The next step is planning academics. Read Suzanne’s post for important details:  College Prep in Middle School

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Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Suzanne and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound.

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from www.pocsmom.com to http://www.parentscountdowntocollegecoach.com/ and vice versa.

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READ more: 

Wednesday’s Parent: Using irony and a proverb as self-motivation for your teen

Wednesday’s Parent: Emotion management 101 

Wednesday’s Parent: 5 rule-breaking ways to encourage 

When tech helps/hurts college prep

Wednesday’s Parent: Choosing an admission program is like buying a mattress

Choosing an admission program is like buying a mattress. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Choosing an admission program is like buying a mattress. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

A college admission program has to fit a student comfortably like a customer finding the right mattress. In the end, both will be making their own bed and lying in it, even if one of them is in a dorm bunk bed. I was thinking of the similarities as I tried out a few in a local store.

There are lots of choices but the comfort and cost vary. A wrong decision can cause sleepless nights, a hefty blow to the pocketbook, and change the course of the next umpteen years. The pressure is on to make good choices.

My need for new sleeping arrangements coincides with the November deadline for college applications under early admission programs. That means the college-bound and their parents are under pressure, too. First they have to find out which admission programs colleges on their list offer. Second they have to decide which one offers the best chance of admission and suitable financial aid package.

The possibilities include Early Decision (ED), Early Action (EA), Restricted Early Action (REA), other hybrid ED-EA, or not apply early at all and go with Regular Decision (RD). Those that can’t decide now may also submit when they are ready via Rolling Admission (RA).

Q  Who benefits most from each admission program? 

A  ED allows colleges to fill up their classes early with students with the strongest credentials and finances who declare a college as their one choice. EA demonstrates the students’ strong interest in a college while keeping the option to compare other offers of admission and financial aid. RD enables students to submit additional months of senior year accomplishments to supplement their application and compare other offers. Check the school’s rules for REA and other admission programs to determine which early or non-early admission program benefits you.

I don’t know whether a few minutes of lying down will be good enough for me to test whether or not I will get a solid eight hours (Ha!) of rest. Neither do most 17-year-olds know at the beginning of their senior year what their 18-year-old selves want as they near high school graduation. Whether it is a change of my body or the student’s heart or mind, doesn’t matter. We both have to make a decision based on our research now and what we want to achieve in the future. We will deal with the consequences of our decisions and move on.

To help me decide, I reread 7 Shakespearean steps to good decision-making. Students and parents can also reread College Application & Early Decision and College Admission Applications.

Read Suzanne’s post: EA and ED–Just Get It Over With (and other reasons) 


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Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Suzanne and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound. 

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from www.pocsmom.com to http://www.parentscountdowntocollegecoach.com/ and vice versa.

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READ more: Early admission applications sent, now 7 things to do 

Wednesday’s Parent: 4 college prep nightmare scenarios

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 8.06.23 PMDoes the college process scare you and your student, stress you out until your hair stands on end, and keep you up at night with worry? It could be the beginning of a long nightmare ending in a poor college choice, transferring and losing credits, dropping out altogether and huge student loan debt with no degree to show for it. The frightening part of these nightmare scenarios is parents may be the ones that set the plot into motion if any of the following seem familiar. The good news is it’s not too late to rewrite your story! Here are four college prep nightmare parent roles and the scenarios:

Frankenstein’s Father: Projecting their desires and expectations onto their offspring is the skill of Frankenstein’s Father. He knows what he wants and what he wants for his teen. What his teen wants is not his concern.

Mummy Mom: All wrapped up with her own troubles, it’s almost impossible for the Mummy Mom to move. Thoughts of college costs and parent-student separation anxiety freeze her into inaction.

Werewolf Parent: The way Werewolf Parents deal with the unknowns of college choice and costs is by using their animal enhanced sense of hearing. Instead of getting the facts from expert advice, Werewolf Parents heed the opinions of whoever they overhear while standing in line at the market or getting a hair cut.

Zombie Parent: Unfilled dreams motivate Zombie Parents to seek fulfillment through living their college-bound’s lives. They take over the college process, want to write the college essays, dominate college visits, and constantly contact college representatives.

By empowering students to figure out their academic, extracurricular, career and lifestyle goals, parents can turn nightmare scenarios into attainable college dreams. When students are motivated to lead the college process, they become vested in the outcome and more likely to do their best.

Read Suzanne’s post: Are you afraid of college prep?

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Tonight is Wednesday’s Parent night (the fourth Wednesday of each month) on #CampusChat, Wednesday, October 29, 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will talk with Paul Hemphill, College Admissions Counselor and TV personality, about the scary side of college prep. Paul, a Vietnam veteran, has a degree in philosophy and over thirty years experience in marketing. He has been “selling” students to colleges for the past thirteen years. Paul has authored two books and two DVDs on college. Please join @SuzanneShaffer and me-@pocsmom with our guest @vCollegeAdvisor and bring your questions and comments.

RECAP: Don’t worry if you missed any great tricks or treats from our chat. We have a transcript of #CampusChat 10/29/14: Scary side of college prep with Guest: Paul Hemphill, College Admissions Counselor and other college experts, parents and students.

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Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

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Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from http://www.pocsmom.com  to http://www.parentscountdowntocollegecoach.com/ and vice versa.

Read more:

Wednesday’s Parent: 7 ways to get the best out of group projects

Group projects. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Group projects. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

There’s a reason students are asked to work in groups. It helps develop the soft skills of collaboration, cooperation and communication that colleges and employers want. The trouble is students give up a lot too such as the clock and control.

It’s hard enough to manage busy schedules of family members but group projects must consider the available time of others. Substituting others’ choices over one’s own is never easy.

I remember how devastated my daughter was when a particular group project left at a classmate’s house was altered without her knowledge. There were other times when certain members didn’t pull their own weight in contributions, personalities clashed more than they agreed or got along so well focus was lost to fun. All of these impacted the enjoyment, quality and length of time it took to complete the project.

Going to school is a student’s job so It helps to treat a group project like a business assignment. Here are seven ways to to prepare and get the best out of group projects:

  1. Consider the logistics of when, where, and how long the meeting(s) will be. Pad the time frame to allow for chatting, mistakes and a Plan B.
  2. Exchange contact information. No one should be left out of the loop during the group project.
  3. Decide on what materials are needed and who takes responsibility for bringing and paying for what.
  4. Brainstorm together giving everyone a chance to voice their opinion. A timer can be used to keep track of time.
  5. Put personal feelings aside and concentrate on good ideas that will make the project better. Everyone benefits from this.
  6. Make a plan to ensure everyone is on the same page and work is equally distributed. Each member should understand the project goals, the steps involved to achieve it and who does what, when.
  7. Having trouble? Ask the teacher for help but don’t wait until the due date. Give her plenty of time to make suggestions and the group to deal with changes.

Group projects foster both teamwork and individual leadership abilities. The college-bound can use the opportunity to practice their soft skills. Check out how parents can help.

Read Suzanne’s post: The Dreaded Group Projects 

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Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Suzanne and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound. 

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from www.pocsmom.com to http://www.parentscountdowntocollegecoach.com/ and vice versa.

Wednesday’s Parent: Hobbies can lead college prep

Hobbies can lead college prep. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines.

Hobbies can lead college prep. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines.

There are many reasons people have hobbies but for the college-bound, these interests may drive the college process right to admission, through graduation and into a job. That’s because hobbies are fueled by passion and passion can make work feel like a hobby – - something your student can’t wait to do.

“It makes hard days easier, and your efforts and successes will be a hundred times more satisfying,” Alex Mooradian, CEO of Readyforce, says in the Mashable article, Career Considerations for College Seniors: Resume-Building Begins Now.

Majors and minors,” is what Steve Stoute, founder and CEO of ad agency Translation,  describes the difference between a day job and a passion. He goes on to say, “Allowing your employees to be able to use their talents and passions to move the business forward is an incredible thing. It gets everybody to feel like they have the opportunity to help be a part of the problem-solving for our clients.”

The same reasoning can be applied to higher education. I have written about the reasons for Adding the extras and now it’s time to focus on the extracurricular activity of a hobby. Parents can share theirs, help their children discover an enjoyable hobby or develop an existing one to start the following benefits flowing:

Benefit #1  Hobbies can lead to self-motivation by inspiring students to want to learn more.

Benefit #2  Skills are developed from exploring an interest. The expertise and knowledge from hobbies can be listed on a resume for college and a job.

Benefit #3  Hobbies can show off leadership qualities that colleges are looking for.

Benefit #4  There may be a market for goods made or talents perfected by hobbies. They can be turned into a lucrative business that can help pay college bills.

Benefit #5  Hobbies may be shared with others, delved into alone or divided between the two and easily fitted into busy schedules. It can complement both introvert and extrovert personalities as well as personal timetables.

Benefit #6  Both academic and life skills can be learned via hobbies. “Hobbies can be one of the best avenues to help kids practice what they learn in school and continue learning outside of the classroom,” according to http://houndahobby.com.

Benefit #7  Hobbies can supply a natural connection and conversation starter among family members at home or extend outside between the college-bound and college/employer interviewers.

Whether a life-long interest or a passing fancy, hobbies are leisure activities that bring richness as an avocation that can also lead to college preparation and beyond.

Read Suzanne’s post: Turning a Hobby Into a Resume Rave

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Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Suzanne and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound.

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from www.pocsmom.com to http://www.parentscountdowntocollegecoach.com/ and vice versa.

Wednesday’s Parent: High School courses and college admissions

Choosing level of difficulty of High School courses. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Choosing level of difficulty of High School courses. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Picking clubs are a piece of cake compared to choosing high school courses. You can adapt the tips I provided in Pick a club but not any club to select electives, especially the fifth one about personal growth. It gets a little trickier for required core classes because the choice isn’t about subject matter but level of difficulty. The dilemma is balancing that with degree of course completion success displayed as grades on high school transcripts.

Advanced classes come in many forms. Highs schools may have their own Honors classes for more in depth studies. They may offer special curricula via AP or IB programs that many colleges consider either for increased admission chances or college credit. They may have an arrangement with a college to provide dual enrollment in certain classes for college course credit. How a college treats advanced classes and accompanying grades vary so check first and research costs, if any.

Colleges want students to stretch academically and take rigorous course work to demonstrate college readiness. Students want to show themselves as good catches. College Admission Officers often recommend students take the hardest classes they can and do well in.

Should the college-bound risk poorer grades and take advanced classes or play it safe?

The problem is this is the question most frequently asked but it is the wrong one to focus on. The reason students seek higher education is for knowledge and experiences to prepare for the future as a contributing adult member of society. High school is the perquisite so use the opportunity to challenge the intellect and be prepared to put in the effort.

What happens when a student struggles?

This is the right question to ask because it it the Plan B every student should have no matter what course or job they undertake. Recognizing the need for help, knowing the available resources, and seeking the appropriate aid is not only smart but a major step toward maturity and independence.

Collaboration, communication, problem-solving, time management and leadership are soft skills colleges seek in their students that are not reflected in grades. They can be demonstrated in a recommendation letter by a teacher or tutor showing student dedication, determination and progress.

Parents can play an instrumental role in developing these important success survival skills. Parents may help their college-bound kids hone the top soft skills shows how.

Read Suzanne’s post: Choosing Courses to Impress Colleges

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Tonight is Wednesday’s Parent night (the fourth Wednesday of each month) on #CampusChat, Wednesday, September 24, 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will talk with Nicole Lentine @nlentine about choosing high school classes and college admissions. Nicole is an Admissions Counselor at and alumna of Champlain College. She is Co-Host of Admissions Live, a twice-monthly webshow on the #HigherEdLive network. Please join us and bring your questions and comments.

RECAP: Read this transcript because the tips and tweets were flying fast on this memorable ——> #CampusChat Recap 9-24: Choosing High School Courses with our guest Nicole Lentine, Admissions Counselor at Champlain College and other expert contributors, parents and students.

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Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from www.pocsmom.com to http://www.parentscountdowntocollegecoach.com/ and vice versa.

The Parent’s Role in Test Prep: Passing the Academic Ownership Baton

Passing the Academic Ownership Baton. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Passing the Academic Ownership Baton. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

POCSmom is all about the parent role in the college process so it is with great pleasure that I’m sharing a guest post from test prep expert Lauren Gaggioli. As founder of Higher Scores Test Prep and host of The College Checklist Podcast (I’m Episode 23), Lauren provides her valuable insights to the parent role in test prep. Take it away, Lauren:

It is the student’s job to commit to a study program and achieve their higher scores. Period.

That may seem basic, but, as a tutor and online test prep mentor, I see a lot of parents trying to will their students into higher scores. They push. They prod. They plead. They fail.

Don’t get me wrong – I know that parents are the best cheerleaders in the world. I love seeing parents involved in the test prep process and highly recommend that they help their students on to test prep victory, but it has to be in a support capacity only.

Taking the SAT or ACT is one of the final rites of passage into adulthood.

If that sounds a little dramatic, let me ask you – What did you score? If you took either test, you probably know the answer to the question immediately.

That’s because these exams have far-reaching effects. College admission, merit-based financial aid, and a good deal of scholarship money are calculated with heavy weight given to exam results. Also, many life decisions are based on your alma mater – where you choose to live, your career trajectory, maybe even marrying a fellow alum.

If we don’t give these exams their due as a pretty important part of a student’s transition to adulthood, we miss the opportunity to teach our almost-adults who are about to embark on the college adventure without parental supervision how to take ownership of their academic journey.

Below are a few tips that will help you ease the transition and bring your student to the test prep table fully prepared (and maybe even excited) to rock out his or her very best score.

Notice that throughout this process you’ve gone from being the planner to preparing to hand off the reins to a more managerial position? You now help from afar but don’t get involved in the day-to-day minutiae of your student’s academic life.

The academic baton has been passed. For better or for worse, this is your student’s adventure. Let it be and enjoy the ride.

Before Junior Year

Take a College Visit  Preparing for the SAT or ACT without ever seeing a college campus is pretty silly. I mean, when was the last time you worked hard at something just for the heck of it? Take this trip before ever breathing a word about test prep and the exams.

Address Academic Challenges ASAP As soon as an issue bubbles to the surface, get help. If challenges are addressed in a spirit of problem-solving rather than a under the label of “you’re bad at [insert subject here]”, students be much more open to the process.

The Summer Before Junior Year

Set Your Testing Timeline Set an appointment with your student’s counselor at the end of Sophomore year to learn more about the exams and hear his or her suggestions regarding when your student should take the SAT, ACT, or both. If you need help with this step, I’ve created a free resource called the Test Prep Boot Camp for Parents. This will help you determine which test may be a good fit for your student and when you should take the exam. Learn more here.

Talk About Test Prep Options with Your Student I rarely see students included in this conversation and I think it starts the whole test prep process on the wrong foot. We need to empower our students to make good choices…so let’s do that! Their voices should be heard and their objections addressed so that families can find the test prep options that fit them best. (You can learn more about the ROI of test prep here.

Make a Plan & Commit Once you’ve talked through the options and weighed your considerations, make a plan and stick to it. I recommend typing up a simple contract (that the student actually agrees to) that everyone in the family signs. Together, you should decide what you the parent is responsible for (i.e. financial commitment with dollar amounts, limitations on how often you will check in on your student’s progress, vocabulary checkpoints for the SAT, and so on). Also, spell out what the student is responsible for (i.e. attend all sessions, complete all homework, take the real exam on a particular test date, stay in the night before that test date, etc.). Depending on your student’s motivation levels, it might be wise to have a retroactive financial commitment clause if he or she defaults.

Junior Year and Beyond

Help Find Inspiring Schools There are so many amazing colleges in the world. Sit with your student and do a little research, take virtual campus tours online together, and have your student create a list of a few schools that he or she is really excited about attending. Buy t-shirts, sweatshirts, or swag from online bookstores and help your student start connecting with his or her bright future by placing little reminders of it into everyday life. (Notice – schools. Plural. Having a few options takes pressure off students to fit the mold of one college.)

Execute the Plan (with Love and Understanding) Junior year is typically the craziest year of a student’s high school experience. The academics are challenging. College is on the horizon. Hormones are raging. The future is nigh, and our students are frazzled. During this time is important for you to remind your student of the commitment to the contract. It is imperative that students stay the course! When kids get disconnected from the “why” of test prep, they lose interest. Parents can help students get reconnected by dreaming big about the college experience and then diving into the details – in this case, test scores – that will get them there.

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Lauren Gaggioli is the founder and head mentor of Higher Scores Test Prep, an online test prep company. To learn more about her test prep courses visit: http://www.higherscorestestprep.com or call (760) 814-9655.