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4 Things you need to talk about with your high schooler this year

Julia Christensen is an experienced tutor and professional writer for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.

With the new semester starting, parents of high school students may wonder if everything is on the right track. Between classes and extracurriculars, it's easy to get swept away in the perpetual movement of high school. But it is important to know if she's aware of and preparing for upcoming exams, due dates and life changes. Here are four things to discuss this year:

1. Test dates

The tests your student will take depends on her age. Whether it's the PSAT, ACT or an AP exam, find out what's required or recommended for her age and whether you need to register. Some schools pay for students to take standardized tests at school during normal class hours; others require you to set it up yourself. Most tests are only given a certain number of times per year, so look into this early to select a date that works for your kid.

2. College admissions

Much like the standardized tests, staying on track with college admissions is very dependent on the student's age. Freshmen and sophomore students should begin looking at colleges and programs online. The wide variety of school options can be overwhelming, so starting the search sooner may save your child some stress.

If she's starting her junior year, try setting up school visits — and remember that much of next summer may be spent working on college applications. Students starting their senior year should be working on finishing and sending off college applications; after that, they should focus on maintaining academic excellence. A slump in senior year grades can impact college acceptance.

3. Life after school

Before too long, the school system your child is so accustomed to will disappear from her life. Whether she's done after high school, trade school, college or graduate school — eventually, her schedule will stop rotating around classes. Does she know what she wants to do then? Get the conversation rolling with open-ended, casual questions about her future.

Try thinking of some of the "adult" lessons that threw you for a loop when you went out on your own, and work them into conversation. Did budgeting leave you baffled? Have a talk about finance and help her come up with her own budget. Was cooking for yourself entirely new? Get in the kitchen together and teach her your favorite recipe. While these may seem unnecessary now, she'll likely thank you in the long run.

4. School social life

Before she knows it, she'll be out of high school: Make sure she remembers to enjoy it now! Talk to her about her social life, and discuss what uniquely high school activities she should try. Whether she's intrigued by pep rallies or theater performances, decorating the gym for prom or finally joining the yearbook staff, don't let her get too sucked into the academic stress and forget about the social aspect of high school.

For more tips and strategies to help your student succeed in school, visit

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