Fall is in full swing and millions of freshmen across the country are elbow-deep in their first year of high school. It’s a new experience for these students who have left their middle school days and ways behind them. They face increased responsibilities, new teacher expectations, and a challenging workload. Many students enter the world of high school with eagerness and excitement. Still many others come to school full of uncertainty and fear. Whichever the case may be, parents can help their teens navigate the uncertain waters of high school and avoid the pitfalls that could derail their academic careers. The first year of high school more often than not, sets the tone not only for the rest of your child's time at high school but his track after high school as well.

According to research by the Alliance for Excellent Education, many ninth graders are in danger of dropping out from high school due to " a difficult transition, deficient basic skills, and a lack of engagement as prominent barriers to graduation.” If these issues aren’t remedied, the problems could have serious repercussions in the future. In 2009, the national dropout rate was 71%* and as of this year, the current unemployment rate for teens is 10.8%*. These numbers suggest that incoming freshmen face an uphill battle in their quest to graduate.

Freshman follies are the problems most freshmen find themselves in during their first year of high school. These problems range from absences to homework struggles to breaking the rules. Often, when faced with the barrage of new expectations and experiences in their freshman year, freshmen follow their impulses instead of using good old fashioned common sense - setting these students on the wrong track from the get-go. And the consequences can be huge down the road.  Parents need to be proactive to help their teens stay on track in their first year of high school. Here are five ways that parents can help their teens have a successful freshman year:

  • Remind teens of expectations. Throughout the year, parents need to have ongoing discussions with their teens about what’s expected of them while they’re in school. From getting up in the morning to studying for tests, parents must express to teens the importance of always doing their best in school. It is also essential to discuss goals and what steps are required to reach them. Research shows that parents who are actively involved in their child’s education increase the likelihood of academic success.
  • Know the district and school rules. Parents should arm themselves with knowledge. Districts and schools have many rules and regulations that are important to a child’s safety and well-being. From attendance policies to uniforms, parents need understand what’s required of their child. By knowing the rules, parents gain key information to help support their teen. This is especially helpful during parent-teacher conferences and meetings with school administrators. Teens are less likely to engage in misbehavior if parents are aware of the school’s rules and the consequences.
  • Communicate with teachers. Teachers are a crucial link to parents. Teachers provide first hand knowledge of a teen’s academic status. Parents and teachers are partners in a child’s education. Check in regularly with your child’s teachers throughout the year. By working together, a child’s success increases dramatically.
  • Learn about the school’s resources. Teens need activities to support and engage them academically. These resources can help students stay on track with their studies. In addition, schools provide access to programs that support students’ outside interests. Parents can learn about the variety of clubs and sports teams the school. Teens can have a balance with academics and their interests.
  • Prepare for problems. The freshman year will challenge parents and teens. From cutting class to fighting to just plain feeling overwhelmed, teens can get themselves into some difficult situations. When a teen is in trouble, parents must be ready to help. Learn the facts. Ask questions. Meet with all parties involved. Develop solutions. Issues can be resolved and steps taken to prevent future issues. Most importantly, communicate with your child and make sure she feels like her voice is being heard.

By continuously communicating with your teen and keeping these things in mind, you and your freshman can avoid the follies of the first year of high school and set off on the right track for high school and beyond.