5 ways to Support Early College Students



high school students


5 ways to Support Early College Students

There’s something encouraging about the belief that a rigorous education and the opportunity to save time and money, can motivate kids to work hard in school— especially if you can graduate with two years of college under your belt (tuition free) like many of the students do at Early College Programs

Early college high schools have been established in at least 28 states and the District of Columbia, serving more than 75,000 students.   These schools were initially designed with the great goal of allowing kids being the first to attend college in their families, low-income youth and also English-Language learners with both a High School Diploma and an Associate’s Degree (Muskegon Community College Stats, 2016).

Parents and students have been taking advantage of this opportunity since 2002 worldwide and a little more recently in North Carolina.  Most students do very well and go on to attend a four year university but other students really struggle.  Some have shared feeling ‘overwhelmed’, ‘nervous’ and ‘unsupported emotionally’.  When these negative feelings persist it often leads to them flunking their high school courses, college courses or both.  When asked by a few students in this situation one stated “if someone could just ask, “How are you” or “Do you need to talk”, it would help her feel like they cared about her as person, she adds ‘I’m more than just this smart person, somebody needs to be checking on me’. 

While we know teens have a whole lot ‘going on’ at this age anyway, things  can sometimes be made worse when coupled with rigorous high school and college work, sports, home responsibilities, relationships and working part-time to name a few.  There are many ways parents of teens can support their kids through this, here are about 5:

 1) Be Up-to-date!

Events for parents are often planned by the school (or college) to provide important information for student success.  Your ‘face in the place’ let’s your student know that his or her education is top priority!   If you do have to miss it, see if a family member can attend or ask another parent in your child’s class if they could grab some notes or an ‘extra packet’ to share with you.   Also, make sure you have a copy of the school calendar to know about events ahead of time.

2)  Set goals!

At the beginning of the school semester or term, sit down with your student and set some goals.  ‘Pass my classes’ is a good start but encourage him or her to be more specific.  Some specific goals include things like, ‘get at least a B on every science quiz’, ‘study for my quiz or test at least 30 minutes a day’ or ‘hand in all of my Spanish homework on time’.  Make sure your student knows that school work is their main priority, above being on a sports team and above their part-time job. Be sure to check your child’s school planner (do they have one?) to confirm assignments and due dates.

3)  Know thy school counselor!

If your student is having a hard time adjusting, seems to be nervous or anxious about a class or is beginning to show signs of failing, school counselors can be a life saver!  They, along with the entire school want your student to succeed and are more than willing (along with your child’s teachers) to help.  Know them by name.

4)  Daily School Attendance!

Make sure your child attends school every single day unless he or she is sick.  If they do have to be absent be sure to contact his or her teacher to find out what work can be made up.   Depending solely on your child to do this can often lead to ‘mixed results’ and not the good mix.

5)  Keep Communication Open

Be sure to schedule a time in your day to just sit down and talk.  Whether it’s during dinner, driving to church or if time is limited texting each other from different rooms, keep conversation and family time going.  A few conversation starters include:

  • What is something you have accomplished today or this week that you feel good about? What’s something you still need to work on?
  • In your opinion, what’s the best decision you made this week? Which decision wasn’t so great? If you notice kids having a really hard time managing good decision making or focusing in school, be sure to contact your family doctor or even a mental health professional with your concerns

So as we think about kids going back to school, these are just a couple of ways to support them.  Teaching kids to become responsibly is one of the toughest jobs you have as a parent.  Fortunately there are a lot of people out their willing to lend a hand. Current or former high school (early high school) parents, do you have any other tips to add? Let us know in the comments.

Nekisha Williams, LPC-S, LCAS


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