PrepWell Podcast


Ep. 180 | How Prepared Is Your Child For Next Year?

How prepared is your child for next year? In this episode, I give advice, grade-by-grade, about what parents and students should be thinking about when preparing during their transition to the next grade.

Show Notes:

In this episode, I give my best advice to parents of 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th-graders on how to think about their child's transition to the next grade.

I cover each of these transitions separately and address how you should think about each of the different inflection points.

Each transition is unique and poses its own set of challenges and opportunities.

Find the transition that your child is facing and make sure that you're on top of what's in store.

Show Transcript:

[00:00:24] Hello, friends, and welcome back to the PrepWell Podcast. Before we jump into today's episode, I want to wish all of the mothers out there a very happy Mother's Day. Your ever present support and nurturing and vigilance as moms and confidence and friends can never be overstated. I hope all of you have a great day out there with your family and friends. Please keep up the great work moms. In today's episode, since we are now two weeks away from transitioning to the new prep well year, I'd like to move through each of the year groups from current eighth graders to current 12th graders, and give my high level advice on what you as parents should be thinking about as your child transitions into their next year. These are very crucial weeks and months and years in our children's lives. And I hope to raise your awareness about what's going on, what you should be expecting, and how you can be part of the journey, particularly as it pertains to the college admissions process. Just to be clear, on June 1st, in about two weeks, all of the enrolled propellers will be automatically bumped to the next year. Ninth graders will become 10th graders. 10th graders will become 11th graders. 11th graders will become 12th graders, and 12th graders will graduate out of the program. And, of course, all of the current eighth graders out there who have been waiting patiently to enroll in Prep Academy will have the opportunity to enroll in the program as rising ninth graders.

[00:02:04] All of this happens on June 1st. We make the switch on June 1st because the summer is so important and so consequential that we want students to be one step ahead of the curve instead of playing catch up after the fact. With this in mind, if your child is a current 10th grader and they are not yet enrolled in Prep Academy, they only have two more weeks to do so before the window closes. We don't accept 11th or 12th graders into the program. If they weren't part of the program as a ninth or 10th grader. So if you like what you're hearing in these podcasts and you would like to put your child on a pathway to receive custom videos from me each week to help them on their way, please consider enrolling them before the deadline. If your child is already a prep, whether you don't have to do anything, the transition will happen automatically and your child will begin to receive the New Year's content starting in the first week of June. And we're off to the races. So now let's go through at a very high level. Otherwise this would turn into a two hour episode. What parents should be thinking about during each transition. Let's start with parents of current eighth graders. As your child wraps up middle school, I want you to pause, take a deep breath, and reflect on their middle school career. As honestly as you can. And then start to think about their path forward. How are they doing emotionally, academically, socially, spiritually, athletically? Is their path bright or is it dark? Is it fragile? Is it vulnerable or is it rock solid? Are they dialed in when it comes to homework, study habits, friend groups, technology, sports, other extracurricular activities.

[00:04:07] What does their friend group look like? Do you know their friends? How well do you know their friends? Do you know their friends? Parents? Does your soon to be ninth grader have a good idea of what expectations will be like in high school? Homework tests, teachers after school activities. Sports, social life pressures. Have they thought about what activities they might want to continue with or maybe start a new one high school. If they play a sport, where do you project that they may end up? As a good high school player, as an all-county or an all state player, or do they have what it takes to play in college? Are you confident that left to their own devices, that they will handle their transition to high school with very little interruption? Is the whole concept of college even on their radar yet. Do they have an older sibling who's blazed a path or are they starting from scratch? How motivated are they? Do they listen to you for advice? If not, whom do they listen to? Do they have other trusted adult family members or friends or mentors that are giving them guidance? Do they know that ninth grade actually matters quite a bit when it comes to college admissions? In fact, it represents 33% of their body of work when they applied to college. Because remember, when it comes to applications, the only years that colleges evaluate are ninth, 10th and 11th grade. Do they realize that by starting in a new school that they have a rare opportunity to, one, build on their current identity if they like where they're headed? Or two, they can start from scratch and build a new identity. Who do they want to be in high school? What type of student? Do they want to be more on the academic side of things, or are they the sporty type or the social butterfly or the class clown or the leader or the outcast or rabble rouser? These are things that they can shape and mold right out of the gate.

[00:06:23] The bottom line is this. You want your child to start off on the right foot in high school. You want them on the right trajectory with the right friends and the right mindset. Right away, it's very easy to get complacent about this. And get lost in your own busyness at work or with your other kids. And then you end up with problems in the middle of ninth grade, whether with grades or friends or a teacher. And you wonder how things unraveled so quickly right under your nose. Parents need to be very aware about what's happening from day one. Because this transition can be challenging for some and quite routine for others. And you have to make sure that you know which one is going to be. If you think it would be helpful to have a short weekly video from me that helps to give your child guidance and you for that matter, through these types of issues, then I suggest you enroll them in Prep academy in ninth grade right away. If nothing else, it will provide you the parent with the milestones and the motivations to look for in your child over the next 12 months. If you want to supplement your prep membership with a one on one session with me where I go over the lay of the land and what to expect in high school, please reach out to me and we'll set up a Zoom call. These sessions have proven to be very valuable for students and for parents as they wander into the unknown of high school. Let's move on to parents of current ninth graders. First off, if your child is not yet enrolled in Prep Academy, I highly recommend that you consider registering them now. It takes 60 seconds to pick a program, and once you do, the wheels will be set in motion.

[00:08:18] You'll begin to receive content every week through all of sophomore year. Is it the end of the world that they miss ninth grade content? No, it's not ideal. But of course, the sooner you can get them back on track, the better. So think about that. If your child is already a prep dweller, I'm glad to hear it. And I hope my weekly messages to them have had an impact on them over this last year. And I'm confident that the messages will resonate more and more and more as your child continues to mature over time. Okay. Within the next few weeks, your child will have made it through ninth grade. That's quite an accomplishment these days. It's a big milestone. I'm sure you've seen and learned a lot about your child this year when it comes to their maturity or lack thereof, their work ethic, their study habits, their extracurricular interests, their friend groups, their emotional stability and many other facets of their lives. And just as I suggested with the parents of the eighth graders, I would also like you to sit back, take a break and reflect on the year. Go through a mental checklist on how your child is faring emotionally, academically, socially, spiritually, athletically. Did they meet the challenges of ninth grade? What kind of year did they have? Net positive. Net negative. Is it a positive trend? Is it a negative trend? Was it neutral? Was there any need for an intervention, formal or informal? Are they poised to improve on their already strong performance? Or do they need to dig themselves out of a hole? Or are they just spinning their wheels and not making a lot of progress? Do they need an attitude adjustment? Are their priorities in the right order? If they are propellers, do they actually watch any of the weekly videos? Did you discuss any of the weekly topics with them? Was there any engagement with the content? If not.

[00:10:25] Do you need to get more involved and use the weekly videos as points of discussion to stay on top of these things? Or does it make sense to have a one on one session with me so that I can assess where they are in the big scheme of things and help them make any important course corrections or give my blessing and motivate them to stay on the path. If they're not paying attention to the advice they're getting from their five minute prep videos. Whom are they getting advice and mentorship from? What role are smartphones, social media and video games playing in their lives? A big role. A small role? An average role. Are they a reader? Do you ever see them reading books that are not required for school? How are they in math? What were their relationships like with their teachers and their guidance counselor? What are their plans for the summer? This is a good indication of where their head is and whether or not they've been listening to my videos. Do they have a summer plan? What kind of plan is it? Have they pitched the plan to you? What comprises the plan? Where are their expectations as it relates to college? Do they seem like someone who's poised to go for it and give it their best? Or are they indifferent with their head in the sand, assuming everything will be just fine, even if they don't step up? Or have things really gone south and you and they have a lot of recovery work in front of them to bounce back. These are the types of things I would be thinking about as they transition into 10th grade. Because remember, 10th grade is a pivotal year. I think it's probably the most important year of all.

[00:12:07] I call it the setup year. They had ninth grade to get accustomed to their new school to figure out the lay of the land, to begin to build an identity for themselves, to make some mistakes. But as they enter 10th grade, they have the opportunity to learn from those early mistakes and successes and to make a big move. To take grades and studying seriously to get to the next level on their sports team, to seek out leadership roles in school, to build better time management habits. 10th grade is a laboratory where they can test these different approaches. They don't want to wait until 11th grade for this type of experimentation. By then, many of their habits will be deeply embedded in who they are and how they operate. In 11th grade, their academic load will be heavier. The sports and other extracurricular commitments will be more challenging. They'll have standardized tests to contend with. So they need to use 10th grade as a testing ground to make sure they have everything lined up before they get to 11th grade. This is the whole point of 10th grade to lock in those good habits that finely tuned identity and that optimistic mindset. Again. If you'd like me to chat with your child about these things to help them get the message about how important 10th grade can be, please let me know. We'll set something up. Sometimes it takes someone other than a parent to break through the fog of teenage hood. Let's move on to parents of current 10th graders. Let me reiterate the PSA, the public service announcement one last time. If you have sophomores who are not yet enrolled in Prep Academy, you have a few more days to enroll them before the registration window closes.

[00:14:03] If your sophomore is not enrolled by May 30th, the end of this month, they will no longer have access to the program. We do not accept juniors or seniors into the program if they have not been a prep well are by ninth or 10th grade. So if you've been on the fence and you're thinking about pulling the trigger, please do so. Now, after May 30th, the ability to join Prep Academy will be gone. For those of you with Prep fellows in the program, this summer will be very important. Because at this point your child should be pretty dialed in, especially if they're a prep dweller who's been listening to me every week for the last few years. They should have a rigorous summer planned out with activities related to academics, volunteering, of course, some fun and recreation jobs, internships, shadow sessions. Now, I don't have the time to reiterate all the details of summer planning in this episode, but please refer to the many prep academy lessons and many podcast episodes for that matter, that address what to do this summer at a minimum. No matter what their bigger summer plans are by now, they should, number one, have taken or will soon take a diagnostic or a practice S.A.T. and ACT test to see where they stand on these two tests. And be sure to reach out to me and I'll set that up if your child hasn't done that yet. Number two, if they took the practice tests, they should have received their scores, assessed their performance, and selected one of the two tests to actually study for this summer. Not both of them. And then they need to, number three, decide what their target score is, depending on the types of schools they aspire to and devise a study plan that will help them hit that mark.

[00:15:56] All of this should be happening by the first week or so in June so that they can line everything up accordingly. If your child hasn't done this yet or they're not in the process of doing this, you may want to intervene or you may want me to intervene. This is the summer they should study for the SAT or the act. Assuming that they're far along enough in math. They will not want sat studying, hanging over their head for the whole of junior year. I can guarantee you that the studying will just not get done. They need to get the bulk of the studying done this summer. With the goal ideally of sitting for a test or tests in the early fall of their junior year and getting it out of the way. If there is one thing that I want them to have a handle on this summer, it's this. Now, if they can also pull off a summer filled with other stuff. That would be great too. But I don't want the summer to be wasted without considerable effort to prepare for the SAT or the act. Again, feel free to connect with me if you want to go over some of these finer details on a one on one basis. Let's move on to parents of current 11th graders. As your child enters their last summer before applying to college and then their senior year. It's important for them to honestly evaluate where they are in the big scheme of things. After all is said and done, the ups and downs of the last three years. Where do they stand? How do their grades stack up? Where are their 18 A.C.T. scores? What about their AP exam scores? Have they thought about potential college majors? Have they thought about potential careers after college? What about their extracurricular activities? How competitive are they? Did they score any big leadership positions? How are their relationships with their teachers and their guidance counselor? Will those relationships bear fruit in their letters of recommendation? Are they an athlete that's being recruited for their sport? Are they being hunted by coaches or are the coaches hunting them? Do they need to do some stuff this summer to help them make some of these decisions, whether it's internships, shadow sessions, interviews, camps, jobs, etc..

[00:18:28] Have they began researching colleges that might fit their needs yet? What is their current level of ambition? Are they super gung ho or have they lost steam? Or are they somewhere in the complacent middle? Does their level of ambition match with the reality of their profile? Are they projecting as well as they thought they would in ninth or 10th grade, or have they been passed by by their more motivated and talented peers? Where are they on the D scale? Do they have diversity, equity and inclusion advantages that will put them to the head of the line or the opposite? Are they so far down the totem pole that they're disillusioned and unsure about their competitiveness anywhere, whether in college or beyond? Have they? And you thought about whether college is the right path for them or has this just been a running assumption? Is there a possibility that spending 50 to $100000 a year for college if your child isn't quite geared up for it, is the right decision. If you determine that paying that type of money would be reckless and unsustainable, especially for a child who is lukewarm about the traditional college experience, Have you thought about alternatives? These are some heavy decisions to come to grips with. But they should be dealt with before your child plunges headlong into the college application process, which will eat them alive for several months. Are you as the parent, capable of assessing where your child fits into this new world? And I mean a new world, new with respect to changing admissions criteria and the disappearance of merit based criteria. New in terms of the competitive landscape. New in terms of DTI and its implementation. That has completely reset admissions expectations. New in terms of the financial stakes involved in going to college at $90,000 a year.

[00:20:40] New in terms of the value of an undergraduate degree in today's world, new in terms of career paths that are available and viable today. I've been in this business for ten years and very few of these issues were relevant when I started. Parents and students did not have to wade through such complexity and lack of transparency and the beginnings of a new world order. When it comes to college and college admissions. So if you're feeling a bit overwhelmed, it's for good reason. The world is shifting under our feet as we speak. So if you'd like to discuss these issues with me or you'd like some advice on where your son or daughter might fit into this new world order, please feel free to reach out to me and we'll set something up. And lastly, for parents of 12th graders. For those of us, including me who have 12th graders, time with our child is obviously getting short, particularly for those of us who have children who are moving away for college. Sometimes I feel like the walls are closing in around us as every week and day go by. My son leaves in about five weeks for the Naval Academy. So he's a real short timer. If you're interested in what I do and what I have done with my sons on their way out the door, I would refer you to episode number 98 of the podcast called The Horses Have Left the Barn. This episode has actually become one of the most listened to and most shared episodes of all time, so you might want to give it a listen. If you have a child who's about to go out the door to college in the episode, just to give you a little preview, I go through my checklist of things that I want my kids to know before they, quote unquote, leave the barn.

[00:22:34] And I break the episode into three sections. Section number one is Life skills. Section number two is paperwork and admin, and section number three is financial literacy. Now, I'm going to rip through these topics very quickly in each of the categories, just to give you a sneak peek at what this longer form episode covers. In case you're interested in this first category of life skills, I cover things like how to jump start a car, how to handle a car accident. In other words, what are the three documents you need if you happen to get into a car accident? How do you change a flat tire? How do you plunge a toilet? How do you turn off the water to a toilet if it's overflowing? How do you turn off the gas to your house? How do you check the electrical panel for blown circuit? How do you turn off a smoke alarm? How do you use a fire extinguisher? How do you sign up for the Selective Service? How do you register to vote? How do you pay an online bill? How do you set up LastPass or some other password manager? How do you address and stamp an envelope? Yes, that's a thing. How do you decide between going to your primary care doctor walking into an urgent care or calling 911? How to use Uber, how to recognize fraudulent emails, phone calls, phishing scams, and Instagram get rich quick schemes. How to set up a dentist appointment. How to find a new doctor Now that you're 18. How to designate my wife and me as patient spokespeople so that if they get into an accident and a significant medical problem, we can find out what's happening. How to dial in your computer, your phone, your printer, other accessories.

[00:24:06] How to back up your hard drive and other important documents and photos. How to reconstruct your laptop if it gets lost or stolen or broken. How to sign up for AppleCare. How to update your LinkedIn profile. How to manage and track subscriptions. How to tip at a restaurant these days. How to manage peer pressure. How to come up with a solid plan ahead of time to deal with alcohol, drugs, pornography, sex, plagiarism, social activism. How to say no, not really into it, but thanks anyway. The pro tip is rehearse saying that 500 times in a row, so it just flows off your tongue. How to seek out help if you need it. How to deal with your roommates. How to communicate effectively with professors, teaching assistants, coaches, and other people you might meet on campus. How to make friends, how to network. And why? These are all the types of things we talk about in Category one. Category two is paperwork and admin. It covers things like making sure you have hard and soft copies of driver's license, passport, medical insurance card, vaccination card, immunization, record social Security card, birth certificate, no traveler ID, military ID, military orders, Baptism Certificate. Communion Certificate. Confirmation Certificate. Your first bit paperwork, your health power of attorney. And lastly, the financial literacy section covers things like how do you open your own checking and savings account? Have you used an ATM card? Do you know how to create a pin? You make sure you know how to get money out of the ATM. Have you deposited money into your checking account? How do you transfer money from account one to account two? What about credit cards? How to credit cards work? Why? Paying the minimum balance is not a smart idea.

[00:25:48] What happens if you lose your credit card? We discuss the pros and cons of debit cards, setting up Venmo accounts, opening up brokerage accounts. Roth IRAs. Direct deposit. Automatic investment plans. How to go paperless. Instead of having to receive your statements at our house all day long? How to set up auto pays. And then finally, we moved from the very practical and tactical elements of money management. Two more educational and philosophical themes. We review different asset classes, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, alternative investments, real estate, crypto Bitcoin, money markets, rebates, ETFs and cash that you stuff under your bed. We discuss passive versus active investing. We talk about diversification and the dangers of putting a lot of money in one individual stock. We talk about the power of dollar cost averaging, the power of compounding interest, and give illustrations of how that shows how early investment is so powerful. We talk about hedge funds and private equity. We go over fees related to investments, commissions, administrative management fees, taxes, churn. We cover taxes related to investing, whether it's capital gains or ordinary income. We discuss the benefits of Roth IRAs, tax free withdrawals. We talk about income tax returns, real estate and leverage. The difference between for one case and defined benefit plans, also known as pensions. We talk about inflation and stagflation. We talk about how to read, understand and reconcile online banking statements. We talk about credit scores, health insurance. We cover the financial crisis of 2008. What happened and why? We discuss existential threats to our financial system as we know it in the next ten years. Blowing through debt limits, college debt bubble. Stagflation, political overspending, cryptocurrency. I. We go over some of the biggest financial mistakes people make as young adults.

[00:27:41] We go over how to use Excel. We also go down a few philosophical roads, things like how important it was or wasn't to keep up with the Joneses. How much money do adults make in different jobs and industries and careers? Why it's so hard to make over $250,000 as an employee. What are the pros and cons of different life paths? The differences between public sector and private sector jobs. The difference between wealth and prosperity. We discuss my philosophy about living a prosperous life. We go over different retirement profiles. We talk about our values and how they typically change over time. We discuss the stoic idea of being content with less and how if you can learn to be happy without a lot of stuff, your chances of living a happy and fulfilled life often go up. We discuss the idea of passive income and how a well thought out side hustle might be the best way to generate stealth wealth on your own terms. We debate the pros and cons of careers in the military. We talk about the pros and cons of delayed gratification. We talk about housing costs in different parts of the country. How do families figure out how expensive a house they could or should buy? We talk about the runaway costs of college education and how sustainable that might be. We discuss the prospect of graduate school and we discuss things like hedonic adaptation and how a program to get bored with what we have, no matter how extravagant, no matter how much we thought that once we did X, we'd be happy forever. But instead, we're often compelled to want more and more and more. And how can we protect against this? So I know that was long. If you want the details on that, you can go again to that episode number 98.

[00:29:22] Horses have left the barn. That's all I've got for you today, folks. Thank you for tuning in. Thank you for continued support. In case you didn't know, this podcast supports Prep Academy's online mentoring program, where high schoolers and their parents receive weekly videos from me, where I break down important topics and give timely advice about college admissions, particularly for top tier colleges, service academies, and for ROTC and athletic scholarships. Many parents who listen to this podcast already have their high schools enrolled in Prep Academy, which is great. If you don't yet, please consider enrolling them. Registration is only open during freshman or sophomore year. After that, we no longer accept new students. So if you have a freshman or sophomore in high school and you like what you're hearing in these. Podcast and you like to get more content like this tailored specifically for your child, for their specific grade with their specific goals in mind. Go to prep academy dot com and enroll today. If you're a parent with a middle school or high school that might find this helpful, please share the episode with them and give us a rating if you get a chance. Word of mouth and positive ratings help our podcast reach a larger, a larger audience. If you have questions, comments, or an idea for an upcoming episode, please don't hesitate to reach out to me by email. Demi on Instagram. Check out our blog Facebook page. Connect with me on LinkedIn. I'd love to hear from you. Until next week, Goodbye. Good luck and never stop preparing. This podcast is brought to you by Prep. Well, Academy Prep 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.

[00:30:59] 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.

Learn More About PrepWell:

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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