“You only get one chance to make a first impression,” is a quote I’m willing to bet runs through the minds of numerous teachers in preparation for Back to School Night each fall. It’s one of the few moments they can share their philosophy with a captive audience of parents. But how does Back to School Night relate to college planning?

Consistent academic success is something the majority of colleges and universities evaluate when first considering an applicant. Knowing what’s expected of your child during the year will give you an idea of how to support their needs. Remember-the teachers usually have ten to fifteen minutes to share a lot of powerful information, so be ready to take notes on the key topics they discuss.

What happens when a student starts to struggle and their grade begins to drop? For example, the student has a low D in Freshman English, if that becomes the final grade at the end of the year, they have a problem. Before it reaches that point, the options for academic support are often shared at Back to School Night. Before or after school support, lunchtime tutorials, and even Saturday sessions are ways teachers make themselves available to students. Teachers want to help; knowing how to access the help is the first step in improving academic success.

Teaching your child to be a positive self-advocate is one of the most important life skills they need to be successful in high school as well as the postsecondary setting. It’s a team effort with the teachers and counselors.

Think of the example I shared above: what do we do when a student is not performing up to their potential or failing a course? Fast forward to the postsecondary setting: what steps must be taken to increase success when they are failing a class and must seek out the help of a professor, tutoring center, grad assistant or another form of academic support that is offered. During Back to School Night the teacher will outline their support system and with the help of the team, we can begin to teach a high school student how to self-advocate.

The college selection process begins the first day of school for every single ninth grader. While Back to School Night may seem like just another event to attend it’s much more impactful than one might think. So parents mark your calendar and don’t miss out on the opportunity to interact with some important people who help shape your child’s future.

Questions to consider at Back to School Night:

·     Average amount of homework?

·     Grade percentage breakdowns (HW, quizzes, labs, etc.)?

·     Policy and willingness to write letters of recommendation?

·     Classroom website or online portal?

·     Tutoring and support?

·     Preferred form of communication (email/phone)?