Checklist for parents of high school students

High school goes by quickly for most students – and their parents. And after high school, what then? Regardless of whether your teen plans to go to college, work, apprentice, join the military, travel, or some combination, high school is an important time to prepare. Your student needs your help because his or her responsibilities are mounting. Here are some things you will want to stay on top of. The first is a list of general items for all four years, followed by specific lists for each year.

Make sure your teens attend school each school day. They are not too old to have help waking up or reminders to take their homework, books and notebooks, and other supplies every morning. Encourage them to do their best each day.

Attend school events. Participate in school open houses, parent nights, and parent/teacher conferences. Come prepared with your questions and concerns. Keep materials and information that are handed out for future reference. Support student events and performances by helping with them and by attending them.

Learn about the high school’s graduation requirements and program options. Make sure you understand the standardized testing policies and opportunities. Encourage your teens to take the most challenging course of study they can manage and help them connect the classes to their goals and plans.

Make your home a good place to learn. Encourage learning by modeling it. Read regularly yourself, and continue to read together as a family. Agree to limits for viewing television, playing video games, conversing with friends on telephone or computer, and being out for school or social events. Listen to your teens’ concerns each day with empathy. Praise them regularly.

Encourage your students to be involved in school life and extracurricular activities. Find out about and encourage them to join clubs and activities in their interest areas. Participation in clubs, athletic teams, music groups, yearbook staff, and leadership activities will be important for college and scholarship applications and resumes. Help them keep a balance between activities and academics.

Talk with your teens about their interests and their plans. High school may open up new opportunities for your students. Help them by talking about their dreams and what it takes to achieve those dreams with them on a regular basis. Each Oregon high school student is required to have an education plan based on their personal and career goals. Discuss this plan and the career-related activities they are doing to help them plan.

Continue saving money for education or training after high school (or get started if you haven’t). Some parents believe that unless they have a lot of cash to set aside, there’s little point in saving for college or some other postsecondary training. Not true. Saving even a little bit (for example, $25 each month) can add up over time and starting early is critical.

9th Grade

Meet with the school counselor to make sure your teens’ high school course plans are consistent with their goals. Course selections in every year of high school are important, but the courses students take in the 9th grade set the stage for 10th grade and beyond.

Encourage your students to take part in programs that are offered on college campuses (for example, Saturday academies, summer programs, and athletic clinics). Seeing different campuses and experiencing campus life at an early age can help young people see themselves as future college students.

Encourage your teens to build relationships. Freshman year in high school can be a lonely time, especially if your students are entering a new school. Help them connect with their peers, teachers, and counselors through school work and activities. You can connect to other parents by attending school events and volunteering.

10th Grade

Discuss what your students want to do after high school; and if attending college is part of their plans, begin talking about what they want in a college. Visit local college campuses. Whenever you are on a family trip, make it a point to stop by the campuses that are nearby.

Help your students develop a way to document their activities and achievements. They will need to have this information handy and well-organized when they complete job, college, and scholarship applications.

Encourage your teens to participate actively in career activities. Many schools require sophomores to do job shadows and service learning. They may need your help to locate interesting placements and make adult connections. Career-related learning helps your students see how school connects to the real world. It also helps them discover new aspects of their personalities, interests, and talents.

Consider having your students register for and take the PSAT and the PLAN tests. (The PSAT is the preliminary test for the SAT; the PLAN is the same for the ACT.) The PLAN test is typically taken in 10th grade. The PSAT may be taken in the 10th grade but your students will want to retake it in the Fall of 11th grade. Taking these tests provides practice for taking the actual exams next year. Your students can use free test preparation software online to get familiar with the test structures and expectations. The school’s guidance office or career center will have information on dates, registration, and other helpful resources.

11th Grade

Encourage your students to take on leadership roles in school and community activities. Continue documenting student activities and achievements. Begin identifying teachers and other adults who will make good references for college, scholarship, and job applications.

If you students are working, help them make the most of their experiences. Discuss what they are doing in their part-time jobs, especially what kinds of skills they are learning and how these skills are transferable to other settings. Remind them that they are developing contacts for work and personal recommendations.

Encourage your teens to participate actively in career activities. Many schools will require juniors to complete class projects or internships that connect classroom learning to real life problems and issues. By junior year, their activities will focus on a broad career area. Reflecting on the experiences is critical to making next step choices.

Help your students make a list of their college selection criteria and begin identifying possible colleges. Use a college selection program, like Oregon Career Information System’s School Sort component, to identify schools that meet these criteria. Attend college fairs and other information sessions to have an opportunity to talk to campus representatives from a variety of schools. Use college web sites to gather more information. Request catalogs, applications, and financial aid information from colleges at the top of their list. If at all possible, visit the schools of greatest interest in person before their senior year.

Remind your students to sign up for and take college entrance exams. They will want to register in early fall for the October PSAT. This test serves as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying exam and good practice for the SAT (even if your students took it last year). They can take the SAT in March, May, and/or June and the ACT in February, April, and/or June. If required for admission into one of the schools on your students’ list, they will want to take the SAT subject tests in May and/or June. If your students are taking Advanced Placement courses, the AP tests can be taken in May for AP courses completed junior year.

Discuss college financing with your students. Together research financial aid and how it works (if you have not already done so). Start searching for scholarship opportunities. Make a timeline for application deadlines for the senior year.

If your students are hoping to play sports at a Division I or II college, help them register with the NCAA Clearinghouse by the summer before their junior year. Your students will also need to be connecting with coaches at schools that interest them.

12th Grade

Help your students focus on school and avoid “senioritis.” Contrary to popular belief, senior year grades and classes do count!

Encourage your teens to participate actively in career activities. Many schools will require seniors to complete a senior project or other activity that demonstrates real life application of what they have learned in high school.

If your students are planning to work after graduation, help them think about the steps for getting a job. If they are moving away from home, help them plan a budget, find a place to live, and figure out a schedule for moving and starting work. If they do not plan to move away from home right away, discuss any new expectations, such as contributing to living costs.

Help your students organize their college application process. Continue college visits to narrow down college options. Select the schools to apply to, making sure your students apply to at least one college to which they have a very good chance of being admitted. Encourage your students to make a calendar of college application due dates. Encourage them write an early draft of a college and scholarship application essays over the summer or early in the fall. Suggest that others critique the initial draft. Remind them to complete and mail paying close attention to deadlines. They will need to:

  1. Keep copies of applications and forms sent to colleges.
  2. Line up recommendations (if needed).
  3. Send test scores and transcripts to colleges.
  4. Complete the financial aid process for the colleges.
If your students have not taken or need to retake college entrance exams, help them register and prepare. If required for admission into one of the schools on your students’ list, they will want to take the SAT subject tests as soon as possible. If your students are taking Advanced Placement courses, the AP tests will need to be taken in order to qualify for college credit (although this will depend upon the school your college attends).

Plan college financing with your students. Learn all you can about financial aid and assist your child in filling out the application forms. Continue searching for scholarship opportunities. Help them make a timeline for application deadlines for the senior year.

  1. Attend local financial aid information night, if available.
  2. Get all family financial documents in order.
  3. Complete FAFSA before February 1, if possible.
  4. Review SAR (Student Aid Report) carefully.
  5. Review financial aid packages.

After your students have decided which school to attend, follow-through on the steps required by the school. Read all information sent by the school carefully with your students.

  1. One they make the final decision, mail the deposit to one school by the deadline.
  2. If wait listed and your students still want to attend that school, help them contact the admissions office to find out how to proceed.
  3. Contact the financial aid office if you have any special financial aid circumstances and make sure your students follow-through on all financial aid requirements.
  4. Remind your students to notify colleges of any private scholarship awards.
  5. Remind your students to request final transcript to be sent to college.
  6. Make sure your students follow procedure for college housing and orientation.