Making sure your teenager is prepared for college is a job that starts in high school. The habits she builds today can be helpful when the temptations of collegiate free time threaten her studies. Here are 10 ways to introduce patterns that will make the grade in high school as well as life after graduation.
1. Remove all distractions
This means turn off the television, the iPhone, the computer and even the radio. Create a quiet corner. If possible, set up a desk that is only used for studying and doing homework, rather than a kitchen table with mail and dishes left over from breakfast. (I'm not judging. I still have to clear off mine from this morning.) Establishing a space that is free from distractions and used for the sole purpose of studying allows a student to automatically focus on school work when she sits down.
2. Listen to classical music
I know I just said no radio, but I meant no Beyonce. Studies have proven time and time again that listening to classical music is helpful for memory and problem solving. So convince your teen that Mozart was the original rock star (which he was), and have them rock out to those trigonometry problems.
3. Set aside 20-45 minutes of study time per class per day
Encourage your little genius to plan on studying for two hours a day. Break it down by class and find out which ones will need more time and which could use little to no time at all. Explain that runners train for marathons and doing homework is training for the big event. As my dad, a college professor, explained to me: "You may be smart enough to get away without studying in high school, but they'll kill you in college." Guess what? He was right.
4. Get and use a daily planner
Success is rarely accidental, and high school is no exception. Explain to your child that part of an easier way to navigate the scholarly path is to map it out. Give them a good planner and show them how to use it. A test on Friday can be studied throughout the week in 20-minute increments if it's planned ahead of time.
5. Color coordinate
Once they have the planner, get all fancy and liven things up. Give them some colored highlighters to color-code each class so they know what's coming up and what needs to be prioritized.
6. Encourage them to take a walk or get exercise
When things get hairy and their mind seems ready to implode, take them outside, walk with them, or go for a bike ride. The point is to show them a balance between their studies and what's real. Nature always brings a fresh perspective and new ideas. So, don't let them get discouraged when they hit a wall — just show them a window.
7. Tell them to take notes
Show them how to write an outline, if they don't know how. Tell them to use the colored highlighters to organize things into categories. Finally, have them go over their notes right after class, if they have time, when all the information is still fresh in their head. If your child still has questions, she can ask the teacher before moving on and forgetting about it until she's at home and lost.
8. Have your child show initiative
Don't allow your teen to be intimidated to ask questions. In college, she will be lost in the crowd if she doesn't learn to take her concerns to the professor. Encouraging communication now means less hesitation later. Also, many teachers are impressed with a child who is eager to learn and will be more than helpful.
9. Remind your teen to review notes right before a test
After long term-memory has been established throughout the last week(s), it's often helpful to glance over all the study materials just before a test. It isn't cramming when there's been a bunch of studying beforehand.
10. Reward them
Show your child how proud you are. If you can't afford a shopping trip or a mini-vacation somewhere, just host a special dinner in her honor. Make a big deal about these successes, and there will be many more to come.
Remember, your child has to navigate this walk without too much hovering on your part. It's great to encourage without being overbearing. In this phase, we want our kids to be comfortable dealing with real life situations with minimal interference on our parts.