High school is a different world when it comes to academics—and for many students, it can mark the beginning of academic problems or exacerbate issues that were minor in middle school. According to Eileen Huntington, co-founder of Huntington Learning Center, parents can help their teens avoid such academic pitfalls—if they know the signs. “High school is a time when parents need to pay very careful attention to what is going on with their teen in school because they will be more removed from the classroom than they ever have been,” says Huntington. “Communication with your teen and teachers is important, as is watching your teen’s grades and demeanor overall.”
Huntington shares five academic pitfalls that can plague students in high school—and tips on what to do if you notice your teen falling into any of them.
Slacking off – High school offers an abundance of opportunities to meet new people, get involved and have fun. For some students, that can have a negative impact on their motivation and/or commitment to their studies. If you notice your teen spending a disproportionate amount of time on his or her social life (vs. school) and poor grades come home early in the school year, talk about how to put a plan into place that will help your teen find a better balance.
Apathy – Some intelligent students get to high school and lose their sense of responsibility (especially without as much nudging from parents). Does your teen seem to lack self-discipline and independence when it comes to school work and studying? Does your teen rush through homework, often leaving it incomplete? Students who become lazy in high school need intervention immediately. With the help of your teen’s teachers, you can set goals and a study plan to achieve them (as well as a follow-up plan). With time and effort, your teen will begin to understand how his or her actions affect school achievement.
Effort that doesn’t yield results – In high school, it’s normal to expect that your teen will spend more time on homework. However, if you observe that your teen’s hard work is not yielding positive results or that simple homework is taking more time than seems reasonable, you should investigate whether there are gaps in your teen’s skills causing him or her to struggle.
Disorganization – Up until high school, many students lean on the help of teachers and parents to stay organized and on top of everything. However, some teens who are otherwise capable students become overwhelmed by the volume of high school work. If your teen suddenly has difficulty keeping track of homework, maintaining a neat study space, or making the most of each study session, he or she may need help establishing effective study and organizational habits.
Avoidance – Avoidance of school work can take many forms, but the most obvious is procrastination. If your teen consistently puts off work until late at night or avoids planning ahead for big, important projects, there’s no doubt that this will quickly become a major problem in high school. Pay attention to whether the issue is with all subjects or one in particular.
High school definitely steps up the academic challenge. Huntington reminds parents to take note of how their teen handles the change. “Most parents are intuitive enough to recognize when there is a problem with their children, but it isn’t always easy to know exactly what’s going on,” she says. “If you have a child in high school and you sense issues arising, call Huntington. No problem is too big to overcome, and we can help your teen get and stay on the right track.”