Parenting Through High School and College: 4 Tips To Manage Your Expectation

Entering a new stage of parenthood often brings a sense of angst, nerves and/or stress. We want to parent well but when we feel a loss of how to navigate another new chapter in our parenting journey, it can feel tough.

When your teen enters high school, it can bring on many new feelings: the last chapter of him being home, stress of social expectation, hours of homework, and college preparation. Where do you start on how to navigate course selection, time management, peer pressure, driving, and dating? The list goes on.

After teaching college age students and working with high school age students for many years, I have learned a few things from them and what type of help they look for from their parents, guidance counselors and teachers. Here are a few of them:

4 ways parents can help their high school kids
Tom Wang/ Shutterstock

1) It’s OK to not know what you want to do with the rest of your life.

Often, students feel they need to know, when entering college, what their major will be. They don’t. Colleges usually need students to declare a major by the end of sophomore year (approx. 60 credits).  Encouraging the student to self-reflect on what he enjoys doing, is good at and has a passion for, can help him connect his skills to his classes and potential careers. Enrolling in a wide range of courses can help the student do so.

*Remember, we typically have more than one career in our lifetime so developing the needed soft skills of writing, speaking and interpersonal skills is a must.

2) In high school, enroll in advanced level courses in a field of study that you like, do not enroll in courses that you think college admissions officers would like to see.

A ‘B’ or better in an honors or AP level course shows that the student is at the ‘right’ level. Parents who push their student to enroll in advanced courses that will be too difficult or of no interest may not be beneficial for the student. College admissions officers want to see a student challenge herself but not set herself up to struggle or fail.

3) Ask questions to your guidance counselor, high school teachers, or a coach.

They are here to help you. Bring a notebook to meet with your guidance counselor and have a few questions written down to ask. There is no bad question when you don’t understand something. Ask questions to teachers in a field of interest to you. Showing interest may lead to a teacher recommendation, part time job or internship. Talk it up!

4) This is your teen’s high school and college experience; not your experience.

Times have certainly changed since you may have applied to college using white-out and a typewriter. Programs like the Common Application have created such ease in applying to multiple colleges by a simple ‘click’ of your laptop’s mouse. This has caused, in my opinion, application statistics to skyrocket and admitted statistics to plummet.

Applying to college, today, can be a completely different experience. Keep this in mind, when managing your expectations of both your teen and of the outcome. Encouraging your teen to ‘own’ her high school and college experiences will help her develop the independent skills she will need to be a happy adult in later years.


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Suzanne Lagemann, MA is an adjunct professor at Montclair State University and is an independent college admissions consultant. She is an associate member of IECA and has worked in higher education for almost 20 years.






About Suzanne Lagemann

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