December is here and that dreaded ailment – senioritis – is already running rampant. Senioritis comes in two (almost) deadly strains. First, either your senior has received early acceptance to college and feels that no further schoolwork must be done between now and September 1 of next school year, OR, your senior is so paralyzed by fear – staring down a mountain of applications or waiting for college letters of acceptance – that he is unable to focus on the tasks at hand. Either way, senioritis is a problem for you and an even bigger one for your teen.
For a high school senior who has received early decision from their preferred college, he might think that school’s over and the living is easy. Opening the mailbox and finding that fat package from Dream University provokes a euphoric reaction akin to finding the golden ticket in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory! Early decision can be a wonderful thing. The college pressure is off for most seniors, but temptation to simply coast until mortarboards are tossed into the air is almost overwhelming.
For wise parents, however, it’s important to note that many colleges and universities require mid-year transcripts, even after acceptance. Does your son or daughter really want to jeopardize that acceptance to Dream U? Also, there are still your student’s Advanced Placement (AP) classes to consider. These classes count toward college credit only upon course completion and a successful score on the AP exam. Or perhaps your senior is already enrolled in online college courses through their local high school? Again, these classes count towards college credit only if they are successfully completed.
So what’s a parent to do? Here are five simple strategies to help motivate your senior to excel during their last year of high school, and still enjoy all of those special senior year events.
1. Back off (a little). With senior projects, college application deadlines, and scholarship essays all due, due, due, you may be tempted to push your senior to do, do, do! With the stiff competition for space in the nation’s top colleges, this makes sense. But maybe it’s time to reevaluate your college application list. Does your senior really need to apply to 20 colleges? Or can you lower the number of applications and still include enough “reach,” “possible,” and “safety” schools? Whenever feasible, don’t forget to utilize that life saver, the Common Application.
2. Help out (a little). I am not advocating that you take over applications. But I am suggesting that help in filing necessary forms, providing data when needed, and maybe running to the post office to meet deadlines is helpful for the overwhelmed senior. The number of forms, essays, supplements, teacher evaluations and letters of recommendation needed for many colleges requires almost military precision. Try to keep your cool when your 18 year old can’t seem to remember his Social Security number (again). Keeping track on an Excel worksheet will be helpful.
3. Set up a study group. This is especially helpful for Honors and AP classes and preparation for these important exams. Teens are also much more likely to hit the books if food is involved, so prepare a healthy snack. Set aside a dedicated space in the dining room. And monitor (unobtrusively) to make sure that the work is getting finished.
4. Dangle a carrot. Some might call this bribery — I call it smart. One of the best strategies I’ve heard for motivating seniors to fill out scholarship applications is to split the rewards. The amount is up to you. If you choose, for example, a 70-30 split and your senior wins a $1000 scholarship, the whole $1000 goes to school, but you pay him $300 out-of-pocket. Having a fat bank account to start freshman year off right is a powerful motivator for him and you’ve still gained a $700 discount on the college bill.
5. Enlist outside aid. This can take many forms. Does your sister-in-law have the best proofreading skills around? Ask her to proof your son’s essays for spelling, grammar and punctuation. Does your mother have the organizational skills of a four-star general? Ask her to help your senior set up a spread sheet to track acceptance and deadlines. Or hire a short-term tutor who edits essays.
These strategies will help your senior regain the momentum necessary to propel him through the rest of senior year. And don’t worry parents, June is just around the corner!
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For 25 years, Back to Basics has been recognized as the area’s undisputed leader in one-on-one tutoring. In addition, the firm offers a unique Delaware private school for grades K-12 and a Private Business and Trade School for adults. Back to Basics is the 2010 Better Business Bureau Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics.