Parents: 10 Tips to Prepare Your Teen For Sophomore Year
For many parents, their teens’ high school years represent a difficult balance to strike. During freshman year, students may still need significant support and guidance from their parents, but by senior year, most parents hope that their students will soon be capable of venturing out on their own. The transition to independence during a time of such high stakes can be delicate to maneuver for many well-meaning parents who want to encourage freedom while still providing a safety net.
Sophomore year in particular can sometimes prove trying for the relationships between parent and teen. While freshman year represented transition and likely a great deal of excitement about the start of high school, by sophomore year that newness has worn off and students can no longer take as much time to acclimate as grades and coursework gain momentum.
If you’re the parent of a rising sophomore, you probably already know that during sophomore year your teen will begin to take the first major steps towards realizing his or her college dreams. In this post, we outline ten considerations for supporting your teen through this transformational year.
1. Begin Talking About Life After High School
For many teens, the years after high school seem like a distant and abstract time. The reality, though, is that the future will be here before either of you knows it, and there’s no better time to start discussing it than now. Be an open sounding board for your teen as he or she discusses possible career choices, college preferences, and other ambitions. Try to offer insight and perspective without being overbearing.
For some useful conversation-starters, see these CollegeVine posts:
2. Consider Preliminary Testing
Although your teen’s first experiences with actual standardized testing probably won’t be until the PSAT during fall of junior year, you can encourage him or her to get a realistic idea of his or her starting point by taking a practice test during sophomore year. Make sure your teen knows that it’s still early to get a very good read on standardized testing potential, but that having some rough idea of a starting point will ultimately make standardized test prep a little easier later on.
For more about preparing for standardized tests, see these posts:
3. Explore Careers
Starting during sophomore year, your teen is able to gain actual experience in certain career fields. Depending on your teen’s age and the laws in your state, he or she may be eligible for an actual job. Even if he or she is not, you can still encourage your teen to gain experience through volunteer opportunities or unpaid internships. Start a conversation about your teen’s interests and consider different angles for applying them towards a future career. Have conversations about interests and ambitions. Try to inspire some more thought about the future.
For more about jobs and internships, see these posts:
4. Take Personality or Career Tests
While it is still a bit early to think seriously about a future career, it’s never too early to bounce ideas around. Taking personality and career tests can actually be a fun way for your teen to start to consider options and to frame his or her strengths and interests in a productive way. Encourage your teen to explore some of these tests. Many are available online, and taking them with friends can even be a fun, social activity.
To get started, point your student to Career One Stop. Career One Stop is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor and provides career, training and job search resources. Interest and skills assessments give you an idea of careers you might possibly pursue based on your unique passions and experiences, while career profiles and videos provide insight into professions you might not have otherwise considered.
5. Attend Career Days
Another casual and fun way to explore future career options is through career days at school. You can help your teen to make the most of these events by perusing the event flyers in advance to preview who is visiting and what presentations sound most appealing.
If your teen is interested, encourage him or her to make a list of the presenters he or she would like to see. Your student might even wish to compile a list of questions for these professionals in advance to truly maximize the experience.
6. Delve Into the College Search
Sophomore year is the year that the college search begins to get real. If your teen has not already, he or she should begin to keep a college list. This list will grow and change with time, but it should reflect schools that your teen might consider attending. As time goes on, it will narrow in focus and your teen’s true college ambitions will become clearer.
To learn more about starting a college list, see these CollegeVine posts:
7. Learn About the College Application Process
Some parents tend to think that because you yourself handled the college application process with ease, you’ll be a great resource for your teen when it’s his or her turn. While you may still be a great source of support and inspiration, in actuality, the college admissions process is changing rapidly and it likely bears little resemblance to the one you undertook. Rather than taking on the role of the teacher, make learning about the college application process into a team endeavor. Set aside some time with your teen to do some online research, pick up a few relevant, updated books or magazines, or chat with someone who’s gone through the process recently.
You can get a better idea of the current application process by checking out our posts Parents, How Involved Should You be in the Application Process? and Parent Perspective: What You Need to Know About Today’s College Applications
8. Get More Involved in Extracurriculars
While freshman year was a time to explore new options and branch out, sophomore year is time to focus in. Encourage your teen to identify the activities for which he or she truly has a passion, and to invest more time in these while letting other, less productive activities go. Ideally, your teen should eventually focus in on two or three extracurriculars that represent broad interests, ideally incorporating some kind of service element.
9. Browse Online College Tours
Again, sophomore year is early to get serious about the college search, but there are plenty of fun ways to explore different options and, by doing so, gain some more insight into what your teen is looking for in a potential college. One fun way to do this is by perusing online college tours. Many of these have gotten very technologically advanced and include sound, 3-D video, and easily navigable experiences.
You might choose to virtually tour any of the colleges on your teen’s preliminary college list, or for a list of some schools offering online college tours, check out the site eCampus Tours. Here, you’ll find a virtual tour of over 1,300 colleges searchable by state.
10. Review Scholarship Applications
For many families, financial considerations play a significant role in choosing a college, and even for families who don’t need to weigh these factors, scholarships are still a smart way for students to gain recognition for their achievements. Many students are surprised to hear that sophomore year is a great time to begin reviewing scholarship applications.
Many scholarships have stringent application requirements and if you don’t begin researching them early, you could be ineligible by the time application deadlines roll around. For example, to be eligible for the National Key Club scholarship program, students must be members of the Key Club with two years tenure. Other scholarships have strict GPA or standardized test score requirements. Begin your research early and arm yourself with knowledge about the scholarships best suited to your teen.
To learn about scholarships, see our post Getting a Head Start on Your Scholarship Search.
Guiding your teen can be a delicate balance. On the one hand, you want to be a source of support and a shoulder to lean on. On the other, though, you want to provide the structure and accountability that many teens need. If you feel your teen needs a little extra boost from an outside source, consider the benefits of the CollegeVine Near Peer Mentorship Program, which provides access to practical advice on topics from college admissions to career aspirations, all from successful college students.
For more information about sophomore year, check out these CollegeVine posts:
Want more tips on improving your academic profile?
We'll send valuable information to help you strengthen your profile and get ready for college admissions.