Your teenager has reached a major milestone: the halfway point of high school. Congratulations! This milestone is a natural opportunity for reflecting on the last two years and looking ahead to the next two years. Take advantage of it by starting a dialog with your child about how they are feeling right now and where they see themselves after high school. You’ll be glad you did when next year rolls around!

First, Reflect

Start by asking open ended questions: How do they feel about high school so far? What have they enjoyed (or not)? Would they like anything to have gone differently? From there, you can get into specifics. Remember, talking through these items over several conversations (some casual, some more formal) can make them seem more natural and less overwhelming.

Academics

This isn’t just grades, though grades clearly play a big part when it comes to college admissions. Review the classes they’ve taken and the grades they’ve received. Look for patterns - have their grades gone up over time (a good thing) or down (not so good), are they good one semester, then less good the next? Encourage them to think about why their grades are what they are, what they’ve done well, and what they could do better. Also, get them to think about what they have really enjoyed learning in school and how they can build on that in the coming year. Finally, a good exercise is to have them look at their transcript and tell you what they think it says about them. It can be a great motivator as they go into junior year!

Extracurricular Activities

Just as you did with with their academics, talk about what they’ve been doing outside the classroom. If they haven’t done much in this area, next year is a prime opportunity to get involved. Sometimes it can seem as if school clubs or sports are the only activities around, but lots of things count as extracurricular activities, e.g. volunteering, working part-time, starting a business, you name it!

Emotional Health

Often overlooked, it’s important to check in to see how they are feeling overall about things in general. Teens can feel overwhelmed and anxious without letting parents know. Sometimes it’s just good to ask. If they are struggling in anyway, you can help them address these feelings while they are still living at home!

Once you’ve started the above, you begin talking about where they see themselves at the end of high school. If they have already identified potential colleges, have them look up the admitted student profile for each school and see how they compare, it’s a great reality check! Most schools will post this information on their website, just look for information geared to “Prospective Students.”

Planning

This is when you and your child take all the insights you’ve gathered and put them to use. If they are struggling academically, talk with their school about changing the courses they are taking or consider hiring an academic tutor. Set some attainable, incremental goals for improvement. If they seem to be breezing along, see where they can challenge themselves in the coming year. Junior year is the last major opportunity for students to make a significant show of their achievements before they start the college application process. This is why educators often stress junior year as the “make or break” year.

Another thing to plan for is where you will fit ACT or SAT prep into their schedule. For many students, the summer before their junior year is the best time to start prepping. Once junior year begins, students will be busy with schoolwork and activities. Summer likely represents the last large chunk of free time they’ll have to dedicate to test prep. Plus, if they hit their goal scores in the fall, they’ll have more time later in the year and next summer to focus on everything else. Trust us, you’ll appreciate this as well!

If summer isn’t the best time for your student, think about when would be a good time. If they play a spring sport, fall could be their best time to prep.. Finding the right window to prep will reduce stress and help you avoid the last minute rush to prep in the fall of senior year. If you’re wondering which test would be best for your teen, take a look at this infographic detailing the differences between the two tests. If you’re considering prep options, check out Testive’s programs.