PrepWell Podcast


Ep. 108 Revisited | Parents: Don't Miss Your Window

Why parents need to pay attention to their high-schooler sooner rather than later

Show Notes:

In this episode, I encourage parents to change how they interact with their teenager. Their influence will peek in 9th and 10th grade, and disappear in 11th and 12th. How not to lose this important window of opportunity.   

Show Transcript:

[00:00:42] Hello friends and welcome back to the PrepWell Podcast.. Today's episode is primarily for parents with eighth, ninth and 10th graders. And what I'd like to talk about is how quickly life is going to move and change if you're not paying attention. And this goes for parents and students. My goal today is to focus on parents. What do I mean by that? Well, as your child makes their way into high school, many parents, in my opinion, have an unrealistic idea of what that next four years will be like when it comes to their relationship and time spent and the influence they will have on their child. They think they have a four year window, 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th. But what I would argue is that it's really a two year window, 9th and 10th grade. That's a significant difference. And it's this mindset shift from a four year focus to a two year focus that I'm hoping to convey today. Because presumably, if you thought you had four years of time with your teenager and then you were told, oh, yeah, sorry about that. And then two years. That your behavior and your perspective and your outlook may change. Why am I cutting back time with your child to two years from four years? The short answer is because you will not see them in 11th or 12th grade.

[00:02:17] I hate to break it the bad news, but it's true. If you have not yet had a teenager go through 11th and 12th grade, then you may not appreciate how this works. So let me explain. When your child starts 11th grade and they can drive and have access to a car, 90% of your job as a parent is over. And I know that's hard to imagine. And it seems unfair and it's too soon, but it's the truth. 11th graders with their own car and their own busy lives. They don't really have time for us anymore. This is especially true if they have big aspirations for life after high school and they're trying to get their ducks in a row. If you have an 11th hour 12th grader who is highly motivated, you should very rarely see them. And this is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it should be a good thing. Most of the time, God willing, they're in their rooms, doing homework, studying for the S.A.T. or a physics exam or an AP US history exam. They're researching colleges, they're rewriting their essays, they're texting with coaches, or maybe they're on the road, maybe they're at their job or practice, or a student government meeting or hanging out with their boyfriend or girlfriend. They're busy. This is the way it should be. What this means is that your relationship with them will likely take a dramatic turn in 11th and 12th grade. Because it used to be that they needed us to get from point A to point B, we were their chauffeurs. And as much as we would complain and gripe about it, these trips back and forth from activity to activity B these were precious times. Because during that drive time, we had the chance to catch up with them, hear about their day, their hopes, their dreams, their challenges, their test scores, their friends.

[00:04:18] The car was where most of our communication was done, and now that's gone. I've been through this transition three times already. I have two freshman in college and an 11th grader who's at home right now. And my only hope of seeing them during 11th and 12th grade is typically at dinner. So I was diligent about preparing dinner, hopefully making something that they liked and with the way that teenagers eat, especially boys, that meant I might get 10 or 15 minutes of time with them together. Precious time. That's not a lot. But it's also the way it should be. And you should be prepared for this day. You should understand that the time you used to have with your child in ninth and 10th grade will change and your relationship will change as well. The reason I'm bringing this up is not to scare you, but rather to suggest that your direct influence on your child's life will likely peak in ninth and 10th grade. And if this is true, then you'll want to make the most out of these two years. As I've said many, many times in this podcast and in all my PrepWell videos, by the time your child gets to 11th grade, the die has been cast. They have learned study habits, good or bad. They've put themselves on a path academically, athletically, socially, good or bad. They have made good use of their summers or not. That train has left the station and it's picking up steam. That's not to say that you have zero influence on their lives or choices or behaviors, but it's greatly reduced. After all, how much influence can you really have when you only get a passing glimpse of them running in and out of the house? And I know I sound like a broken record when I say this, but it bears repeating.

[00:06:19] Ninth and 10th grades are the most consequential years you will have with your child, especially when it comes to preparing them for college admissions. They have no choice but to at least fake like they're listening to you because they still have to rely on you to drive them all over the place and to pay for stuff which makes you valuable to them. You must take advantage of this dynamic. Milk it for all it's worth, because soon it will be gone. So how do we take advantage of this? Well, I know this sounds self-serving, but one way to take advantage of what I call the golden years, ninth and 10th grade, is to make sure that your child is being presented critical information about how to live their lives if they want to be successful in the college admissions process, how to think about academics and sports and study habits and summers. And extracurricular activities and relationships and class selection. And I understand that many kids, especially boys, are not particularly interested in this topic this early because of course, they already know everything. But in my opinion, it's our responsibility as parents to figure out a way to get this information to them so we can sleep well at night knowing that we at least gave it a try. One way to do this is to enroll them in PrepWell Academy, where I walk them through this process in short videos every week, starting in ninth grade. In an ideal world, students, your children will listen to these lessons on their own without a lot of badgering because they understand that there's a lot to learn and that it will help them. More commonly, it will take some convincing, some cajoling from you, if you will, for them to engage with the content.

[00:08:15] Obviously there are plenty of things your child can do for immediate gratification these days. And discussing college admissions, which is two or three years away, is probably not top on their list. But remember, if this doesn't happen before 11th grade, it's probably not going to happen. Or if it does happen, it might come in the form of panic and regret when they finally figure out that they're way behind the eight ball. The impetus behind this episode came from an email that I received from the parent of a PrepWeller who wanted to cancel her subscription. She had enrolled her son in PrepWell Academy as a ninth grader, and six months later, she's writing me to cancel the membership. This doesn't happen very often, so I pay close attention when it does. And I think her email is a cautionary tale about where, as parents and students, we should focus our energy, our time and our money. Her email said the following. Dear Phil, I am writing to cancel our subscription to PrepWell Academy. I appreciate all of the great advice, but my son is just too swamped to handle the information. He has a heavy freshman course load. He's involved in four clubs, playing on two club lacrosse teams and getting tutoring from Revolution Prep. Keep up the great work with your other students. Now, when I see this, I like some, maybe even a lot of what I'm reading. I like the participation in clubs and lacrosse and tutoring, and I appreciate all the time and energy that those things take. What doesn't add up to me is how time seems to be the sticky point. He just doesn't have enough time. Now who knows what the real reason is? Not enough time is always the default answer.

[00:10:04] It's certainly not the money because $15 a month is peanuts compared to the money that this family is spending for year round lacrosse. One of the most expensive sports around. And revolution prep tutoring service is not exactly cheap. So it's not the money. And with respect to time, a weekly prep well, a video lesson is on average about 5 minutes long. So are they really saying that they can't spare 5 minutes per week? They can easily listen to the lesson while in their car to or from lacrosse practice or any other activity. So in essence, she, the mom, is telling me that she and or her son can't find 5 minutes per week to educate themselves on the college admissions process. To me, that's a stretch. But hey, maybe there's something I'm missing. What I hope doesn't happen. Is that this mom and her son put their heads down until the middle of junior year, and then they come up for air and they start looking around and surveying the scene and they realize that the son didn't do particularly well on the SAT, which was a surprise. His lacrosse career has flatlined. He's dropped three of his four clubs because of lacrosse commitments. He didn't do much over the summers again because of lacrosse commitments, and that he has very little left to work with. And of course, the panic sets in and they wonder what they should do now. Well, the answer is that they should have spent the 5 minutes a week for the last two years, at an absolute minimum, educating themselves about the many pitfalls that they will likely encounter and how to deal with them. But unfortunately they couldn't spare the 5 minutes a week because they were just so busy.

[00:12:01] And even worse. And in keeping with today's theme, the son who is now an 11th grader is now off on his own and his mom never sees him anymore. So her window of influence is now closed. So one of the morals of the story is be careful about what you're focusing on and when you're focusing on it and what excuses you're making along the way. Because a ton of effort in the wrong direction will not always end well. And also remember, don't think that life and your relationship with your child will be the same throughout high school. It will not be. You will have a two year open window, early ninth and 10th grade and a two year blackout period late in 11th and 12th grade. So you want to do your best work early and often, and PrepWell Academy's mission is to make that job a little bit easier for you. Once again, all things point back to those golden years, ninth and 10th grade. This is when we as parents make our money. This is when many of these issues should be considered and decisions should be made, and you won't know what these issues are and what these decisions are if you're not educating yourself. If you wait until junior or senior year, it's often too late. And that's why PrepWell Academy starts in ninth grade and puts such heavy emphasis on learning about these decision points when it really matters most.

[00:13:35] That's all I've got for you today, folks. Thank you for the continued support. Thank you for tuning in. If you know a parent with an eighth, ninth, 10th, 11th grader in high school that might find this helpful, please share the episode with them. You can do that by finding that small box with the tiny arrow pointing up. That's the share button. Click that button. Text your friends the link to this episode with a little personal note from you recommending that they give it a listen. If you have questions, comments, or an idea for an upcoming episode, please reach out to me by email DM on Instagram. Check out our blog Facebook. Connect with me on LinkedIn. I would love to hear from you. Until next week. Goodbye. Good luck and never stop. Prepare. This podcast is brought to you by PrepWell Academy. PrepWell Academy is my one of a kind online mentoring program that delivers to your ninth or 10th grader a short, highly relevant video from me every week. Every Sunday, in fact, where I give them a heads up about what they should be thinking about to stay ahead of the game, to get these valuable lessons into your child's hands. Please head over to and enroll your child today.

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Podcast Host: PrepWell Academy's Founder, Phil Black, has spent a lifetime cracking the code on the world's most competitive programs: Yale University, Harvard Business School, Navy SEALs, Goldman Sachs, Entrepreneurship, Shark Tank (2X), etc. Inside PrepWell Academy, Black teaches students everything they need to know about the college admissions process in a series of expertly-timed, 3-5-minute, weekly training videos starting in 9th grade and continuing through 12th grade [Note: this program can only be joined in 9th or 10th grade]. My specialties include military service academies, ROTC scholarships, Ivy League, and student-athletes.

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