Having a freshman son myself, I’m back to focusing on how important it is to set the tone in any school year.  It is paramount the beginning of high school.

The Right Start

Frequently, because LEAP effectively engages students in ACT and SAT test prep, I’m asked by parents of 8th and 9th graders what can they be doing to get ready for college entrance exams or college.  The answer for this age group?  Don’t focus on test prep.  Seems counterintuitive for a company who offers test prep to offer that advice, doesn’t it?

Students in 8th, 9th and 10th grade need to focus on getting their feet firmly planted in high school, developing appropriate study habits and engaging in rigorous curriculum.  Why do I include 8th graders in this group? Many of them begin taking classes for high school credit that may affect GPA.  Classes like foreign language or algebra 1.  The time will come for test prep strategies, but nothing can replace a solid academic foundation.  There are no short cuts.

With the academic rigor being more intense, a new set of study habits is required. Simple rereading of notes and text will not suffice to take it to the next level. Learning the difference between studying and doing homework is key.  A 2011 Purdue University report indicated time invested in retrieval is the key to learning. Can a student explain a new concept to their parent and the parent “get it”?

There are no second chances once a student reaches high school.  These grades stick with him to college application.  Looking for a way to focus the student on the grades they will eventually need? Look for average GPA’s of previously admitted freshmen.  Keep your eye on the prize.

Juniors Needing a Do Over?

While there is no do over, don’t lose heart.  An upward trend in grades is key.  If you can have your strongest year yet as a junior, college admission counselors may chalk it up to a need to mature.  Remember, you are applying to college with the grades earned by the end of the junior year.  So work hard and ask for help during what most concur is the most academically challenging year of high school.

Room for a Senior Slump?

No, for a number of reasons. Some colleges will request mid-year grades. They don’t want to enroll students who take up residence on Easy Street in the senior year. Additionally, if you find yourself in purgatory, i.e. The Wait List in the spring, or deferred from Early Action to the regular pool of applicants a continued upward trend in grades will be key.

What if you find yourself below that 25th percentile for GPA for the college you want most? You may consider not applying early action and instead waiting until the first term is complete, so your updated senior transcript can show you in a more favorable light.

Regardless of what year you find yourself in, remember there are no second chances and keep your eye on the prize.