4 Hot Tips To Make the Most of 10th Grade

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1569254267795{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]As the parent of a 10th grader, you may recall the heartaches of this awkward year of high school and how challenging it can be. What can make this year awkward from a college-readiness standpoint is that your teen isn’t quite fully in the college admissions phase. To make the most of this year, here are four tips that I have learned over the years:

#1 – Develop Self-awareness

This is a great year for your teen to get in touch with who they are and what they want . . . not just being who their parents say they are or imitating their friends’ interests.

Developing self-awareness can be done through taking some initial inventories and interest surveys that can help with figuring out likes and dislikes. Your school counselor may have access to some really great tools that your teen can take. The key will be making sure that they review the results with their counselor and you should get a copy as well to discuss with your teen. Perhaps interpreting the results can lead your teen to consider certain careers or help with building their interpersonal skills, depending on the survey instrument taken.

#2 – Re-evaluate friend groups

This second tip may sound a bit harsh in some way, but 10th grade is a good time for your teen to really reassess their friend groups. When I say reassess friend groups, it’s really about your teen thinking about who is a friend and who is not a friend. And if it’s someone that’s really not a good friend to them, then it’s okay to exit that relationship and not be in a place where they feel bad about themselves or unwanted.

I’ve seen a number of teens go through this experience and it’s been one that’s really been valuable for them in 10th grade. During 9th grade, they may have made some friends that weren’t the best choices. Because 11th grade will likely be a bit more intense, managing toxic relationships at school could be even more challenging. Sophomore year can be a good time to join a new group because it’s likely that there are some other classmates who are also open to new friendships.

#3 – Pursue interests

Your teen should consider pursuing what interests them . . . whether it’s a particular club at school or community service activity. The key is that whichever activity they pursue, make sure that it’s not about doing what their friends are doing or participating because mom/dad suggested. BTW, I understand that this may sound easier than it is in practice, especially if your teen does not want to be involved. A parent shared recently that they forced their teen to choose one club to join. Although I don’t recommend “forcing” a teen to do anything, you, the parent, would know best what will motivate your teen to take action.

What have you done when your teen has been reluctant to participate at school?

#4 – Spend summer wisely

Encourage your sophomore to spend their summer in a productive, intentional way.

For example, let’s say that your teen completes an interest inventory and the results show that they may be a fit for business. Then they could consider a summer internship, parrt-time job and/or countless summer business programs. These summer experiences could help them determine whether business really is an area that interest them. One of my students attended a summer business program after his sophomre year and realized that marketing interested him far more than finance. That’s an important distinction to make because business is such a broad field. (With an interest an marketing, then that could lead to getting involved with DECA during junior year.)

Whatever the experience your teen pursues during the summer, remember to be intentional about the summer and not just let the summer happen to your teen.

For more insights and tips for sophomore year, check out our 10th grade roadmap which includes specific month-by-month suggested actions, colleges worth considering and scholarships![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Living Off Campus: Pros and Cons

Student living off campus walking to classes

The idea of going off to college might seem scary enough. But the thought of living off campus?

Even worse!

The truth is, there are plenty of advantages to living off campus and it could be a great option. But understandably, it isn’t always the right choice.

Many students choose to start their college experience living on campus in university residences. This can help them get the “full college experience.” Also, not having to worry about transportation to and from campus can be a great advantage.

Some parents appreciate the comfort of knowing their child is surrounded by other people and resources. Moving from home to their own place and starting university all at once might seem like too big a step.

While there are definite advantages to living on campus, let’s go over the pros and cons of off-campus housing. With these in mind, you can make an informed decision for which option might be right for you.

Advantages to living off-campus

1. You can stay all year

Some colleges close their on-campus residences during holidays and summers. That means anyone who lives there needs to clear out.

If you live off-campus, there’s no need to leave during breaks and holidays. On the other hand, if you’re required to sign a year-long lease for off-campus housing, you may have to sublet your place during the summer if you go home.

For students who live far away and can’t make it back home regularly for visits, the ability to stay in their off-campus residence can be very useful.

2. More space and privacy

You might luck out with a college that has spacious student residences, but quarters tend to be tight. When you live off-campus, chances are you’ll have more space than you would if you live on campus.

With that added space comes more privacy, freedom, and independence.

On that note, this added freedom and independence while living off-campus might be what scares some students or their parents.

For some students, those close quarters and lack of privacy are just what they’re looking for because they want the complete picture of college life.

But sleeping just a few feet from another person (often a total stranger at first) every night and sharing facilities with hundreds of other students isn’t for everyone.

For students who value peace and quiet (especially when it comes to getting their studying and homework done), an off-campus home might be the better choice.

3. Establishing independence

When a student rents a place off-campus rather than living in a dorm, they’re giving themselves the opportunity to experience many of the responsibilities that come with adulthood.

These include:

  1. Setting up utilities
  2. Managing a small household
  3. Paying bills
  4. Buying groceries and other household products
  5. Establishing and building credit

For students who are comfortable getting an added dose of real-world experience, the off-campus living could work well for them.

Maybe college is still a few years off for your child but you’re doing your research ahead of time. In the meantime, there are things you can do to help prepare younger children for college. In this post, I’ve outlined important ways high school freshmen can start preparing for college. 

Of course, we need to cover the cons to living off-campus, too.

Drawbacks to living off-campus

1. Distance

There are usually off-campus housing options available very close to college campuses.

But often, students will need to take public transportation or drive to school from their off-campus home.

This can equal an added cost for gas, transit passes, and other transportation costs.

2. Some students feel isolated

Living on campus in residence means you’re in the midst of campus life and the activities, events, and other factors that come hand in hand with it. Off-campus housing could leave some students feeling isolated and as though they’re missing out on campus life.

Off-campus housing could still mean living with other students, so you won’t miss out on all interactions with your schoolmates.

For some students, these interactions are enough.

Students who live off-campus can make an extra effort to attend school events and meet other students to minimize any isolation they might feel.

3. More responsibility

Going to university might be a big enough change and added responsibility for some students—the extra work of running and maintaining a household could be too much.

Off-campus housing comes with more responsibility, and these responsibilities could prove overwhelming for some students. On that same note, it might also take up too much valuable time that should otherwise be spent on school work.

Do you find yourself reading these and thinking, “that’s not a con?” That could be a telltale sign that off-campus living would be a good option for you.

What about the cost of living off-campus vs on campus?

You may have noticed the cost of living off-campus wasn’t included as either a pro or a con.

That’s because the cost of living on campus versus off-campus varies so much between schools, students, budgets, and other factors.

If you’re sharing off-campus housing with several roommates, it could turn out to cost less than living in a dorm. But in other cases, living in a dorm will end up costing less.

To help you determine what it might cost to live off-campus of your college, do your research into real estate in the area, spend time talking to other students, and be sure to calculate the added cost of things like utilities, transportation, and groceries.

If you’d like to learn more about securing funds for your child to go to college, be sure to have a look at the “Get In and Get Money” workshop. 

As you’ve probably noticed, there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to off-campus housing or living on campus.

The answer will depend on things like a student’s personality, how much responsibility they’re ready for, and what kind of college experience they’re hoping to get.

Planning college campus visits are an incredibly important part of making this decision, too. Here’s how to make your visit to a college campus as stress-free as possible. 

You might consider living on campus for your first year to help give yourself a softer landing. After that, you could choose to live off-campus for the rest of your university experience. For many students, this proves to be the best of both worlds.

If you’re interested in one-on-one support and other resources to help you or your child get into (or pay) for college, click here.

If you enjoyed this article and you’d like to learn more about preparing for college, don’t miss these posts:

Get in and Get Money: 5 Tips for College-Bound Juniors
College Essay How-to: Who is someone you admire?
The 5 Key Things Students Should Do the Summer Before Senior Year

4 Top Tips to Make The Most of Ninth Grade

Ninth Grade

Ninth grade is a very big deal! It’s a transitional year that can set the tone for the rest of high school and beyond.

While parents may be tempted to “back off” in terms of involvement, it’s really the time to step up your engagement. Granted, your engagement may not be as hands-on as helping in the classroom, your assistance with guiding your teen to make the most of high school is important.

Here are 4 key tips to help your teen navigate ninth grade successfully and launch into a wonderful high school experience:

Practice good organizational and study skills. These are foundational skills that your teen will continue to rely upon each and every year.

Although courses may be a bit more challenging in ninth grade, they will get even more challenging for 10th, 11th and 12th Grade. So ninth grade is a great time to start practicing those good organizational and study skills. If your teen’s skills are weak in these areas, then 9th grade is an ideal time to figure out what works. There are any number of books and/or digital tools/apps that your teen can use to develop these skills.

Get involved with only one or two activities at school. During 9th grade, there’ll be so many new things happening. . . new teachers. . . perhaps new friend groups, and more. It will be all too easy to participate in the same activities as friends. Rather than follow the crown, I would suggest that your teen figures out their own you and focus on participating in only one or two clubs (including sports). Getting involved in too many activities at once may add too much undue stress and slow down their adjustment to high school.

Map courses forward. Courses taken in 9th grade play a role in the course selection for the remainder of high school. So, rather than considering 9th grade only, you can determine the core courses for 10th 11th and 12th grade as well (includes foreign language). This can help your teen see where there may be gaps in their course schedule and plan ahead for creative ways to fill any gaps.

Be intentional about summer. Gone are the days of only “hanging out” in the summer. Having fun and going on family vacations are important. However, there are typically many more other weeks for participating in a summer program, interning, reading several books, even focusing on a creative project. Whatever it is your teen does during the summer, be intentional about it, i.e. have a reason for participating!

Check out my 9th-grade roadmap for more timely tips to navigate each month of this year! (Choose “9th Grade” with the blue button here on this page.)

How The Different College Application Deadlines Can Impact Your Student and Financial Aid

College application deadlines are not the most exciting topic to consider as your teen prepares for college during high school, but it’s a very important topic one. It’s important because it can make a big difference in terms of what you pay for college as well as impact your student’s chances on getting admitted.

Each year there are different application deadlines that your teen can use for their applications for college. They sound similar, so it can be confusing to understand how they are different. I’ll explain how they can impact your teen and their college future.

One of the deadlines is simply the regular decision deadline that happens every year,  usually around January. The thing to remember is that application deadlines are very unforgiving, so your teen needs to make sure that they meet that deadline.

Regular decision is a standard deadline, and another deadline you may hear about is the “rolling deadline”. The rolling deadline means that your teen can submit their application at any time. Usually they’ll get a notice back of a decision about three or four weeks later (but sometimes it could be sooner, depending on the time of year).

The rolling deadline is one that doesn’t have a specific date. So, it could start perhaps as soon as October and keep going until the final deadline, which means that all the applications have to be in by that time. Or it can be set to go as late as the spring of senior year.

Now that we’ve covered standard and rolling deadlines, I want to review two other deadlines that can be a bit confusing because they start with the same word. One of these deadlines is the “early action deadline”. Early action is non-binding, which means that your teen can apply to an early action deadline and usually they’ll find out the decision perhaps around December. It gives them a little bit of ease, especially if they do get admitted, because they’ll know pretty much where their application stands. Then, if they want to apply to some additional colleges, they still have time to do that under the regular deadline.

The fourth deadline I want to talk about also starts with early, and it’s called “early decision deadline”. Early decision is more strict because this deadline is binding. Every year, there are a lot of families that will apply under the early decision deadline. With the early decision deadline, because it’s binding, you cannot apply to any other colleges that have any type of restrictive deadlines. You want to make sure that you read the fine print on that.

The early decision deadline is one that the parents have to sign off on. Also, the school counselor will be notified as well. The key thing with the early decision deadline is that it means that if your teen is admitted, they must go to that college, regardless of financial aid. This is where sometimes I will see families who decide to do the early decision deadline, because that’s the only one that a particular college offers for them (either early decision or regular).

Generally with the earlier application rounds, the admissions rate is a bit more favorable. Families that want to make sure that their teen has the best shot in terms of admissions will often go ahead and exercise that option to use the early decision deadline. But soon after, if the decision comes back positive in December, you have a short window of time to withdraw all of your other applications and to submit your deposit to hold your space.

That’s a really serious deadline. Sometimes families will say, “Oh, I didn’t know. I thought we would be eligible for financial aid.” They get a surprise that they don’t get any additional aid and then it’s trying to figure out, “Okay, how do we pay for it?”

It’s a deadline that I wouldn’t take lightly. It’s certainly your family’s choice if you decide to do the early decision round, but know that it means that your teen will be going if they get admitted, regardless of what the financial aid is.

At least with the early action option, you have a chance to look through the financial aid offers from other colleges as well. On the flipside, some colleges will offer only the early decision deadline, and then others may have an early action, or they can also have an early decision as well. So you want to be sure you know the deadlines for your student’s college of choice when they begin applying!

One thing I will add about the very late regular decision deadlines is that sometimes colleges will say the deadline is June 1st. They will be filling those seats before then,  so for colleges that may have a very late regular decision deadline doesn’t mean that you can apply on May 31st still find seats available. It’s a point to keep that in mind when your student is scheduling when to submit applications.

Do you have questions about application deadlines and helping your student get into their dream school? Application deadlines can make a big difference in terms of what you could end up paying. In some cases, it can also make a difference as to where your teen gets admitted. I look forward to hearing from you if you have any questions or thought about the process!

If you’re a parent of a high school student preparing for college, I have created a free online training class that answers the most common questions I get from parents: “How to Find The Right College.” It offers insight into the college application process as well as how to get money for college. You can check it out and register for it HERE.

Choosing the Right High School

choosing the right high school makes difference

Are you already thinking about high school for your college-bound middle-schooler?

It’s important to start thinking about high school options at least a few years ahead, especially if your teen’s middle school ends at the 8th grade.

What if you don’t have 1-2 years to plan for a school change?

Understanding firsthand just how difficult it can be to choose the right high school for your child is what inspired this post.

Before I move on to tips for choosing the right high school for your child, let’s discuss why you might be considering switching your child’s high school in the first place.

Reasons for changing high schools.

Parents consider changing their teen’s high school for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Disapproval of curriculum at current school
  • Over-testing
  • Relocation
  • Marital separation or divorce
  • Bad social environment for teen
  • Safety concerns
  • Current school closing

Personally, I’ve had to choose different schools for my children for curriculum/testing, safety concerns, social reasons, and relocations. Each time has been different because each grade level is different. Also, my children are quite different from each other.

Regardless of the time parents have to make all the necessary decisions about high school, this one decision (which school your teen attends) is important enough that parents must know their options.

Important choices for parents to make.

These are some of the critical decisions parents will have to make when they’re choosing the right high school for their child:

  • Independent (i.e. private) school—day or boarding
  • Parochial
  • Public school district, including charter
  • Homeschool

Again, given the different personalities of my own children, they have attended day, boarding, and public schools. Plus, I homeschooled… yikes!

Each time my children changed schools, I followed a basic process which included:

  1. School visits
  2. Online research
  3. Personal networking
  4. Considering social dynamics

These four aspects are very important when choosing the right high school for your child.

Here’s how each step of this process can help you choose the right high school for your teen.

Conduct high school visits for and with your teen.

Changing schools can be just as anxiety-ridden for the child as for the parent.

If I’m considering a new school, I generally visit for the first time without my child. This gives me an opportunity to speak with the principal, teachers, and staff one-on-one.

I also observe the condition of the school and notice how students are responding.

When I meet with teachers, I not only ask them about their grade, but their perception of other grade cohorts at the school.

The postings on the wall can say a lot: If there are a lot of signs with directions about behavior, then it may indicate that a school has safety/discipline issues.

I don’t mind waiting in the office; I can see and hear about typical issues there. Sometimes, the office staff isn’t discreet, and I learn a lot from overhearing those interactions.

The other thing I notice is the smells in the school. (It may sound strange but it’s still part of the learning environment.)

As best as possible, I’m trying to get a sense for what the school day would be like for my teen.

I strongly advise parents against the first day of school being the first day that a child sees a new school.

A good opportunity for any child to see a new school is a “shadow” day.

Shadow days are good for any grade level. It allows the child to have the face-to-face experience of visiting a class and getting a better feel for the environment—I only took my child to visit a school if it was a serious consideration.

The campus visits for parents and children is a crucial aspect of the new school search. (Your campus visit is in addition to any open houses held by the school.)

While we’re on the topic, you’ll want to visit this post for tips on surviving college campus visits with your teen.

Save time with online searches.

There is so much information online when it comes to choosing the right high school that it can be hard to know where to start and how to manage.

I love discovering new information but when it comes to searching online, I can waste hours (that I don’t have) reading information on random sites that overwhelm, rather than help.

Here are some online resources that I’ve used to inform my search, which may help you save time:

Bonus tip: Even if you’re not considering a particular school, if the school has a strong reputation, you can still poke around on their site and see what they’re offering. This may trigger some ideas for what questions to ask and how to evaluate the options you’re considering.

Network with other parents.

As always, it helps to talk with other parents in and outside your network about a new school you’re considering.

I’ve found that I can get more information over a cup of coffee than anywhere else.

In each conversation, I make sure to ask these five key questions:

  1. Why did your family choose this school?
  2. What keeps your family at this school?
  3. How would you describe the parent community at this school?
  4. What’s been your involvement at this school?
  5. What do you wish you had known before your teen enrolled?

(If there’s any juicy gossip, I want to hear that too, although I may not ask directly!)

In fact, even when my children changed to a new grade, I would talk with parents in the next grade level to get a sense of their experience. Often, the next grade/teacher can be a whole new experience and adjustment.

Consider social dynamics.

Another factor to consider when you’re choosing the right high school for your child is the social dynamics at a given school.

As my children entered high school, it was more difficult to consider changing schools because of all the social dynamics that play an even bigger role in their experience. That’s why this step deserves special attention.

I’ll admit that I was particularly concerned about the social aspects of high school for my daughter. (Every mom of a daughter can probably identify with this.)

The teen years can be particularly challenging for girls, and moms must be sensitive to the social environment of high school, which can influence their identity formation and self-confidence.

If you follow these four steps, they will help you choose the right high school for your child, to set them up for future success along with a better experience in the meantime.

If you’ve researched a new school for your child, what was your approach? Which resources did you use? Please leave a comment and share with other parent readers.

If you’re interested in one-on-one support and other resources to help you or your child get into (or pay) for college, click here.

If you’d like to learn more about preparing middle school students for college, you’ll want to have a look at these articles too:

7 Ways to Support Your Child During the College Application Process
College Scholarships for Middle School Students
Preparing for College in the Ninth Grade


This article was originally published on April 17, 2018, and has been updated.