12 Most Salient Ways to Help Your Teen Through Eleventh Grade

12 MostI am going through eleventh grade for the fourth time.

First, in the late 1970s, I endured it myself. Then as the mother of three I watched my boys battle through this long tough year, struggling with their academic and athletic schedules while trying to visit colleges, navigate a minefield of standardized tests, have a social life and learn to drive.

It is an exhausting process for both parent and teen, fraught with emotion as our kids prepare for the next stage in their lives. At Grown and Flown, I have explored my journey towards the empty nest and there is no question that 11th grade is the first step on that journey. Here are some suggestions to help them on their way:

1. Study for the SAT in the summer

The time to study for the SAT is during the summer between 10th and 11th grade. While your child will not have reached their ideal intellectual maturity, once school begins, they will never again have this much time to focus on this daunting task. Whatever your preferred method of study, get them started before the chaos of junior year descends.

2. Write the college essay with an English teacher

The single best person to help your child write their college admissions essay is not you, the emotional parent, nor is it a paid consultant. The best person is an experienced high school English teacher, preferably one who has taught your child. A teacher will ask all the right questions and help move the process along (“Is that what you mean to say here, it is not clear to the reader? Do you have more details you can add to bring your story to life?”) but will not write the essay for your child. Find this English teacher during 11th grade so that teacher and student can work together the summer before 12th grade commences.

3. Don’t do a spring sport unless necessary

If your high school junior plays a spring sport seriously, so be it, but if they have signed up for that spring sport for social reasons or as a resume enhancer, suggest that they reconsider. Spring of junior year is the hardest time of the year, truthfully, the most challenging season of all four years of high school. Try to help them keep anything unnecessary off their schedules.

4. Don’t visit colleges until junior year

Much has been written about the pressure on juniors as they enter the college process. The easiest way to reduce the pressure is to ban conversation about college and, particularly, premature college visits until the middle of 11th grade. Most of these early conversations and trips are wasted because teens change so much over their four years. If kids concentrate on their studies, activities and standardized tests, they will have done themselves a favor once the process begins in earnest. Behind the scenes, parents can do some research about which colleges will best suit their family’s budget and their child’s interests, but until the middle of junior year, students should just focus on the job at hand. It is hard enough.

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By Grown and Flown Parenting From the Empty Nest

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  1. Oh, it hurts to remember those junior years.

  2. Jacqueline DeMuro says:

    Well said and I agree on all counts, but the college discussion/college “information overload” in particular. I cannot tell you how many people began asking me back in September/October which colleges my 11th grade child had visited yet, which schools she had her eye on, etc. The whole getting an early jump on things just screamed “waste of time and resources” to me. I love my kid, but she changes her sweater/shoe combination a minimum of three times every morning prior to making a final wardrobe decision. She agonizes over essays and exams. She flip-flops about whether or not she wants to continue with her best sport in college. She learned to drive and she acquired a part-time job in addition to everything else she is doing (and doing well, God bless her!).This year is particularly difficult academically, athletically, and socially. I think adding anymore to their already overcrowded workload is unfair to them (and to us!).

    • You are so right. There is no way to get a jump on looking at colleges. Their 15 year old eyes will see something different from their 17 year old eyes and those early visits will be a waste of time. Kids may rejects schools if they go too early that they would have liked later, seems like a mistake.

  3. Great post, Lisa. Surviving junior year often feels like running a marathon. The whole family wants to collapse when it’s done. Your survival tips are excellent. I do think college visits can start earlier, as long as they’re casual. We would stop and simply walk around a campus that happened to be on our way to our summer vacation destination or a day trip. This seemed to make our kids less overwhelmed by the time they began doing official college tours junior year.
    Anne Vaccaro Brady recently posted..College News You Can UseMy Profile

    • I think casual is fine but since a 15 year old does not really know what they want yet I would worry about them rejecting schools that their 17 year old selves might have liked. Thanks so much for reading this…your college prep blog is wonderful.

  4. Simple tips but so very helpful! I am scared to think about my little ones growing up sooo much and going to collage.
    Ah, no, I have to erase that thought!
    Alexandra recently posted..Social skills vs developing good habits. Part IIMy Profile

  5. it makes me sad that the process has changed so much that our kids have so much stress to deal with navigating their way. and then there are student loans-harder to comeby now and crippling once they graduate in these difficult times. within six months of graduation they have to be able to pay rent, buy a car, and start paying back the loans. in sweden student loans don’t come due for 10 years and don’t accrue interest in the intermin. needless to say, the repayment rate is almost 100%. while i am grateful that the loans are available, i think something needs to be done to provide a better cushion when jobs are so are to comeby.
    sandy recently posted..THE EMPTY NEST DIETMy Profile

    • I agree with you that it is sad that it has become such a painful process. All the more reason to think it through and help your child plan their time wisely.

  6. I couldn’t agree with you more about the SAT. Junior year is the busiest time for students, so it’s best to get SAT prep out of the way over the summer and just make sure they are consistently reviewing up until their actual test date.
    Gina B. recently posted..SAT Preparation, Available Time, and How to Introduce Them to Each OtherMy Profile


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