4 Questions to help your high school junior plan for senior year

Jan 21, 2015 at 11:53 a.m. ET

Your student's senior year of high school is like a bridge to her adult life. While your child's future is ultimately one of her own design, you can act as a guide and share your wisdom with her. By asking key questions and discussing her answers, you can set your student on a senior year path toward happiness and success. But which questions should you ask first?

"What are your post-graduation plans?"

Will your child immediately attend college? Or does she hope to take a gap year to travel or volunteer? Is she more interested in entering the workforce first to gain practical experience and raise university funds?

Answering this initial question will help you begin your senior year planning. Depending on your student's answer, she may need to research colleges or international non-profit organizations, or she might wish to investigate the job market in her hometown. Each option has its own senior year timeline, so ensure your child knows her deadlines well in advance.

"Do you feel ready for college?"

Is your student currently completing college-level work? Is she organized, disciplined and capable of advocating for herself? Does she have a sense of what she would like to accomplish while in university?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, suggest to your child that she spend senior year preparing for these aspects of college; this might mean strengthening her study and time management skills, as well as contemplating her long-term goals. Many high schools offer a number of resources that can help juniors and seniors ready for higher education. Encourage your student to seek them out and to speak to her guidance counselor.

"What tasks do you need to complete, and when?"

Review your child's list of potential programs and help her determine what supporting materials are necessary to apply. When are they due? (Put another way, when should she begin to ask for letters of recommendation? When should she sit for her standardized tests and write her admissions essays or resume?)

Whether your student is applying to a college, a job or a volunteer opportunity, she will need to carefully track a multi-step process. Reinforce the importance of starting early and double-check that she has given herself options to choose from, come decision time.

"Are you remembering to balance school with friends and family?"

This is the last year that your child will have with many of her high school friends close by. Remind her to savor and enjoy it! For example, does she want to invite her friends over for a movie night after she finishes her homework? This may also be the last year that you will consistently see your student every day. Though it can be difficult, try to prepare for this separation. Can you help your child choose an outfit for homecoming or prom? Is she willing to take professional family photographs before she leaves?

Senior year may seem like a long time, but it moves quickly. Make the most of it, and send your student into the world as prepared as possible.

For more tips and strategies to help your student succeed in school, visit www.varsitytutors.com.

Image: Patrick Giblin via Flickr