As a parent of a high school senior, it’s important that you and your child put a plan together for senior year that helps successfully launch them into adulthood. Seniors in high school may find themselves becoming bored and restless (the dreaded “senioritis”), but this year is critical for framing your child’s future. Having a plan in place will give your child something to focus on during the year and motivate them to work towards all the exciting opportunities to come.

Here are some things you should include in your senior year plan to ensure that your child makes the most of their last year in high school.

Have your child meet with their academic advisor

Be sure, well before graduation, that everything is on track for your child’s successful graduation. You don’t want to find out that they are short of a few credits or have a problem when it’s too late to fix it. The academic advisor may also be able to help your child better understand their schooling and career options, what might suit their interests and abilities, and answer any questions or concerns.

Arrange for shadowing opportunities

If your child knows what career they want to pursue, or is trying to decide between a few career paths, it can be very enlightening to shadow someone who is in that profession. Whether your child wants to be an accountant, a beautician, an auto mechanic or a veterinarian, see if you have contacts in their field of interest who will let them come spend a day on the job with them.

Visit colleges or trade schools

Work with your child to create a list of colleges or trade schools that interest them, research them online, and then plan trips to visit your top contenders. Visiting schools in person can be invaluable in helping you and your child decide on the setting that best fits their interests, budget and needs.

Apply for financial aid

Help your child complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. They will need some financial information from you to fill out the form. Also, look into what financial aid options are available at the schools your child is considering and start gathering the information they will need to apply.

Schedule standardized tests if applicable

If your child wants to go to a college or university, it’s important to schedule their SAT or ACT early in the year so they can retake it if necessary to improve their score. There are also a number of test prep classes and practice tests they can take to prepare in advance. If your child is set on attending a trade school, these tests are usually not required.

Start working on applications

Some colleges have lengthy application processes, so again, you may want to have your child start applying for schools early, and apply to several in case they aren’t accepted into their first choice. Typically, the application process for trade schools is relatively simple, and can often be quickly completed online. Either way, encourage your child not to wait until the last minute.

Don’t focus only on school and work

This may be the last time your child lives with you full-time. Make sure they’ve learned some basic adulting skills like cooking, doing laundry, money management and, basic car maintenance so they can live on their own.

Also, plan some quality fun time together – get senior pictures taken, have a graduation party, arrange for a senior trip, and think of other ways you can make this year special for your child as they transition into adults you can be proud of. Make the most of senior year together.

This post is the first in a series, entitled: Parents’ Guide to Graduation and Beyond. We’ve designed this blog series to help parents navigate the challenges their children will face as they pursue educational and training opportunities beyond high school and enter the workforce. Please check back here for additional installments.

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