Common Mistakes Parents Make in High School

“I thought that I found the right school for my daughter.”

This was a comment from a parent whose daughter had just been placed in her junior year of high school. We were fortunate that she continued to consider High School of America as an option and ultimately enrolled there. She thrived at our online high school courses, which turned out to be better than any of the schools she visited over the previous years. So why does this happen to such a bright student? And how can parents know if they are making these mistakes too?

Common Mistakes Parents Make in High School and How to Avoid Them

It’s been said that parents are the first and most important teachers of their children. That may be true, but they can also make some pretty big mistakes along the way. Here are 17 common mistakes parents make in high school and guidelines to guard you from the same pitfalls:

1.Trying to Play Both Roles at Once

Just because you’re a parent doesn’t mean you have to take over all of your child’s responsibilities. It might seem easier when it comes to things like picking up clothes off the floor or making dinner every night, but if you don’t give them space and time for their own independence, they won’t learn how to do these things on their own later in life.

Letting go is hard, especially when you want so badly for your kids to succeed. But by trying to be their everything instead of what they need, you’re getting in the way more than helping.

2.Being Hypocritical

Make sure your child knows that you lead by example. If the idea of paying for a tutor is laughable to you, don’t expect them to embrace it when they need one themselves.

If you hate seeing them fail at something, they’re going to get the same idea of failure from you. Instead, teach them how to take advantage of community resources so everyone’s on an even playing field.

3.Overspending on College

College is expensive and getting more so every year. While it’s great to show your love and support by taking them shopping for clothes or dorm necessities, don’t overcrowd their lifestyle.

If you’re giving them a thousand dollars to spend on everything they could possibly need for class online, that’s money they won’t have for books and tuition. College is all about budgeting. Show your kid how to do it, instead of overspending on unnecessary extras.

4.Not Teaching Social Skills

Socializing is probably one of those things that you didn’t think much about when you were growing up, but now that your child is older and out of the house, it suddenly becomes a big deal to you. How do they make friends? What are the right things to say? How do they deal with awkward small talk situations? Be in the front line to teaching your kids this.

5.Not Showing Compassion

Compassion is like a muscle; it needs exercise so it can grow. But when you’re constantly judging your child for what they don’t have or the mistakes they made or how different their life is from yours, all you’re doing is keeping that muscle in a permanent state of atrophy.

Show them how important it is to treat people well. And if there’s ever any doubt about whether an action or behavior is something cruel and bullying to another person, even if it’s not directed toward them specifically—stop and ask yourself “would I be okay with my kid feeling this way?” If the answer is “no,” you need to think hard about what you’re doing and how it might affect someone else.

6.Using Them as a Reflection of Your Own Success

Freshman problems in high school
If the only thing you talk to your child about is your own memories from high school or things that have happened since then, they won’t necessarily learn anything new about themselves. Instead, bring up things they can relate too—like school news stories or something funny and interesting that one of their friends did on Facebook.

Just because it’s not as important to you doesn’t mean it isn’t still worth talking about in front of them. And just because they moved on doesn’t mean it’s no longer important. (Similarly—if someone’s career takes off or they get married, etc. don’t make a big deal out of it in front of your kids.)

They’re not interested in hearing how much you (and everyone else) hates their boss or that one time you had to give up on a high school crush. What’s important to them is knowing that these things happened and talking about how things are different now—or what has stayed the same all this time later.

7.Being Too Quick to Judge

Teens are never going to be perfect, but if your child is trying hard and making good grades at school, let them know it matters. If they’ve got plans for the summer and have started thinking ahead toward next semester, show them you appreciate it. Just because teenagers act out once in a while, doesn’t mean they’re bad kids. (I.e. there’s a difference between getting into arguments with their parents or fighting with their siblings and being rude to waiters.)

Just because your teenager is struggling with something academically doesn’t mean they’re not smart enough to be listening to you when you speak to them about it at the dinner table. It just means they aren’t ready yet—and that it isn’t obvious to you that they’re trying as hard as they should be yet either. You need to give them time and let them know that you believe in them before anything else makes sense again.

8.Deciding on where their child will go based on their transcript and test scores alone

A student’s academic profile must be considered in the context of where they are applying from. If a child has been taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses and is mainly taking honors classes, it will be easy to see how competitive they should be compared with other students who are also applying to highly selective colleges.

However, for lower-performing students, this approach won’t work as well. For many high schools, a student’s grades will not look very impressive at first glance because they have taken few honors and AP courses due to various circumstances such as lack of time to take more challenging courses, being held back in previous grade levels, etc.

These applicants need dedicated parents who have visited their possible college choices during both the junior and senior years – often multiple times – to see how well they will fit in with the other students applying to that college from their high school.

9.Not preparing prospective transfers early enough

Some parents wait until a child’s junior or even senior year before thinking about where they will go after high school graduation. Unfortunately, these parents are often too late in the process. By this time, most of the desirable colleges have filled their admissions slots

10.Not having a clear picture of what they want their child’s future college experience look like

There are many ways that parents can keep up with where their children stand during the college application process: making visits or phone calls regularly; attending open house events at potential colleges for their children; regularly checking official college websites for updated information when it comes out; signing up to receive e-mails from colleges; and spending time reading college guides or talking with others who have gone through the process.

11.Not having a strategy for achieving their goals

Many parents don’t bother to ask enough questions about admission requirements such as taking AP courses, writing good application essays, doing well on standardized tests (SATs and ACTs), requesting recommendations in advance so that they can be solicited from the best sources, etc.

Parents also need to know what level of extracurricular activities a particular school requires for admission. (Note that certain schools may not require any outside activities.) Students should complete applications as early in the year as possible – before SAT scores arrive and when they are in full swing with activities.

12.Not being financially and emotionally prepared to support their child’s college education

When parents begin considering financial aid at the beginning of a child’s high school years, it is too late as most good aid has already been allocated. The best way to avoid this problem is for parents to have saved money early on so that they will be able to fully fund their children’s first year or two in college.

Parents should also consider other financial options, such as taking out private loans if the need arises. The main point here is that there are many ways for students to get into colleges once they have been admitted – but not everybody can afford these methods.

13.Letting problems get in the way

When parents are dealing with students who may not do well academically, they often make mistakes during the college acceptance process because they have too many variables going on at one time. For example, consider a parent with two or three children.

Each has something different going on: one child is having academic difficulties while another has an emotional issue and is especially rebellious; and the other may be applying for a transfer from another school to live closer to family while attending college. Such scenarios can easily stress any parent out – but it’s crucial that they find ways to keep focused, so each child’s college application process will not be harmed.

14.Neglecting to know the schools

How to prepare for freshman year of high school
Parents need to do their homework by learning about a particular school’s academic programs, cost of attendance, extracurricular activities available for students, safety records, job placement statistics for graduates, and the potential job market in that location after graduation.

Parents need to learn how much money they can expect their child(ren) to earn while attending the colleges of their choice and whether or not it may be worth it financially based on current economic conditions. College costs have been increasing dramatically over the last few years, so this should be considered first before applying to a particular college. Also, remember that some academic pursuits are very lucrative (e.g., business, engineering). In contrast, others will only lead to modest salaries (e.g., teaching, social work).

15.Not knowing whether or not to take the SATs a second time

There are several reasons why students should consider taking the SAT exam more than once:

  • If their first score was low because they did not study enough or had test anxiety;
  • If the student’s score was high but wanted to make sure that it does not decline by retaking and doing just as well;
  • When applying for scholarships that require higher scores to be considered;
  • When applying for admissions at very competitive colleges such as Ivy Leagues where very good scores may be required along with high grades and activities;
  • When applying pre-law programs which value higher SAT scores for acceptance
  • When applying to an institution where a student received ineligibility status.

The point is that if students can score better on the SATs by retaking, then they should consider retaking them. However, many parents do not make this determination properly and allow their kids to take the test too early or unnecessarily as they may have already been admitted to an acceptable college without having to raise their scores on the exam.

16.Not knowing how much money financial aid will cover

Parents/students need to be aware of the different types of scholarships available (e.g., academic, athletic, etc.) and determine whether or not they qualify for them. Some colleges have scholarships that are specifically geared toward minorities. In contrast, others focus on applicants from a certain region or state. There are also many types of grants available to students with different academic profiles (e.g., art, engineering, foreign languages). Even if your child is not accepted into college at this time, there may be more opportunities that can assist them in the future as long as you do your homework and research thoroughly.

The point here is that there are numerous sources of money available to help cover school costs, so parents should work together with their kids and try to find what’s appropriate for them.

17.Not doing enough research about financial aid

Parents need to learn various ways of paying for college and think about all sources of money that can help. In some cases, this may mean finding grants for students to attend a community college first or applying for scholarships online that do not require any work on the part of the student to obtain them. Some kids may qualify for tax-free government loans (e.g., Federal Parent Loan Program).

At the same time, other families may have money set aside from previous years that they can use towards their children’s schooling. There are also numerous types of tuition reimbursement programs where employers will pay off a portion or even 100% of their employees’ education costs as long as they keep good grades and remain with the company over a period of time after graduation (some companies even offer paid vacations to countries where they have overseas offices).

In some cases, parents might be able to get a job at the same college that their son/daughter is attending and get reimbursed for part of their tuition costs.

If you do your homework correctly, there are numerous ways of paying for school outside of the government programs. It’s very important that parents learn about all these opportunities and help their children take advantage of them as well.

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