As parents/family members of high school students, it’s natural to want the best for your student’s future. The high school years, especially 10th and 11th grade, are a crucial time in the academic journey, laying the foundation for the college application process which begins in earnest in the second half of 11th grade and the start of 12th grade. By actively supporting your student’s high school experience and guiding them through important decisions, you can help minimize stress and maximize success, setting the stage for a positive college application journey.

While every student’s experience in high school is different, so is their college admissions process. It is easy as a college counselor to say, ‘almost all students can be admitted to almost all colleges in the country,’ but that does not necessarily mean this process is easy to navigate. However, there are tips to help students find success both personally and academically, which will set them up really well to find colleges that are not just a good fit, but where they can be admitted. 

  1. Identifying Academic Subjects of Interest:
    Help your student identify academic subjects they are genuinely interested in. High school is a time for exploration, and discovering one’s academic passions can be transformative. Encourage them to take a variety of courses and explore different subjects. Almost all schools have elective course options for students to choose from and encouraging students to choose courses that are genuinely interesting will be ideal. This exploration not only helps in building a strong transcript but also provides clarity on potential college majors and career paths.

  2. Exploring Extracurricular Activities:
    Encourage your 10th and 11th graders to explore various extracurricular activities. Whether it’s joining a club, participating in sports, engaging with artistic talents, or performing community service, these activities not only contribute to a well-rounded college application but also help students discover their passions and interests. Balancing academics with extracurriculars fosters personal growth and can lead to meaningful connections and experiences. These activities can happen both during the school year and during school breaks.
  3. Learning to Handle Stress and Anxiety:
    High school can be demanding, and it’s important for students to develop healthy stress management techniques. Teach your student the importance of time management, setting realistic goals, and seeking help when needed. These important executive function skills will set the foundation for success in the present but also in the future. Additionally, encourage open communication about their struggles and triumphs. It is important for students to know that even when things are challenging, they have resources and people who can help them navigate through things. By addressing stress and anxiety early on, your student can build resilience and coping skills that will serve them well in college and beyond.
  4. Positive Coping Skills:
    Promote positive coping skills to help your student navigate challenges. Whether it’s through mindfulness, exercise, creative outlets, or supportive friendships, having a repertoire of coping mechanisms is essential. These skills not only contribute to academic success but also promote overall well-being, setting the stage for a positive college application experience. Students should be their best advocates but also teaching them who they can go to for support is important. Teaching them that professionals in and out of school can help guide them how to be an advocate will also provide them with tools to cope with issues as they arise in high school and in college.
  5. Visiting Colleges:
    Consider visiting colleges together as a family. Campus visits can provide valuable insights into the atmosphere, culture, academic offerings, and the “vibe” of different institutions. Also, do not downplay the impact the “vibe” has for your student. Sometimes the subjective things matter a lot more than location, reputation, and academic opportunities. These visits help students envision themselves on campus and play a crucial role in finding the right fit. It’s never too early to start exploring colleges, and these visits can make the college application process more focused and informed.
  6. Focus on the Right Colleges and Fit:
    Remind your student that success in the college application process is not solely about being admitted into the most prestigious institutions but finding the right fit. Top earning professionals, leaders, and changemakers have attended countless schools from across the country and any student can find success at almost any college. Emphasize the importance of researching colleges that align with their academic and personal goals. Every student has unique strengths and qualities, and the right college will appreciate and nurture those qualities. The students who focus on fit tend to have a much higher rate of satisfaction and greater likelihood of graduating on time than those who focus on aspects that do not meet their personal goals and needs. 

By actively participating in your student’s high school journey, you can help them minimize stress and maximize success. Allowing your student to know they have your support is key, but also knowing they are the leaders of this process is crucial for their overall development and growth as a student and a person. Encourage exploration, foster a love for learning, and provide guidance on stress management. With a focus on the right colleges and a commitment to personal growth, your student will be well-prepared for a positive and meaningful college application process.

To learn more about how to create a positive college-going experience in your family and supporting your student throughout high school, please reach out to Dana at to schedule a complimentary initial call.