A fall meeting is a good time to discuss your high school junior’s goals.

You can save your entire family a lot of unnecessary stress senior year by meeting with the guidance counselor in junior year. (My previous post addresses the senior year meeting.) Do this early into the school year before the counselors get busy helping seniors submit college applications. Use the meeting to help focus your student as they head into the hardest academic year of high school. Here are key topics to cover.

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What would your teen like to do after high school? If you’re reading this blog, the expectation would seem to be college of some sort. Do they have an area of interest—like science or foreign language, engineering or teaching? How about career goals? Many kids this age have no idea what they want to do with the rest of their lives, but here’s the opportunity to get yours thinking about it.

Talk college options, like going away versus commuting, big school versus small, public versus private, a car ride away versus a plane ride, etc. Answers to any of these questions will guide the rest of the discussion.

Review your junior’s current transcript and this year’s course schedule Based on this information, the guidance counselor can see if your teen’s on track with grades and classes to gain admission to a good college for their interests. Depending upon when you meet, there may still be time to make changes to the junior year course schedule.

For a teen’s who’s been coasting during their first two years of high school, this meeting can be that much needed wake-up call. Maybe hearing the guidance counselor explain that colleges look for and offer better scholarships to students who take the more challenging courses and whose grades are on the rise will make a bigger impact than hearing it from you again.

For a self-motivated honors student the guidance counselor can suggest some competitive colleges to start putting on the prospective schools list and begin reviewing admissions requirements.

SAT/ACT goals and preparation With the SAT and ACT being more similar than different now, the counselor can hopefully provide some insight into whether one is a better option for your student. If your school year runs into mid- to late-June, ask whether your student should consider a late spring test date to take advantage of completing another full year of math, English, or, for the ACT in particular, science.

Depending upon what you discussed earlier about potential majors and colleges, the guidance counselor can offer a target for scores for the SAT and ACT. The PSAT exam (practice SAT) is in the fall and the scoring breakdown includes personalized suggestions for improving in specific areas. Also, make sure to ask the guidance counselor what, if any test prep your school offers.

Review the high school resume Colleges like to see a commitment to at least one activity or an after-school job. They’re not impressed by kids who only focus on their schoolwork. Grades matter, but not as much as being a well-rounded person.

If your student is thinking of dropping or adding an activity, this is the year to do it. Additions senior year can be viewed as resume boosters and quitting raises questions. Encourage changes that reflect your teen’s interests. Keep in mind that colleges don’t look favorably on over-involved students, either.

Ask which honor societies your school has affiliations with and whether your teen looks to be eligible for any. Hearing the guidance counselor give goals for grades for various classes might be just what your student needs.

A lot can be accomplished during junior year. But kids do best knowing why they’re being asked to work harder or assured that they’re doing fine. You and the guidance counselor can use this meeting to do just that.

Share your thoughts on meeting with the guidance counselor in junior year in the comments section below.