PrepWell Podcast


Ep. 183 | Managing The Transition To A New Year

How to manage your child's transition into a new school year

Show Notes:

In this episode, I give a quick shout out to all of the new parents and students who just enrolled in PrepWell Academy. These eager 8th-graders have been chomping at the bit to get started.

I then reflect on the critical transitions that are happening across all of these age groups.

  • 8th-graders to rising freshmen
  • 9th-graders to sophomores
  • 10th-graders to juniors
  • 11th-graders to seniors
  • 12th-graders leaving the barn

I give you my most current thoughts on each of these important transitions and how you should be thinking about each one.

Make sure you start this new year with the right mindset.

Show Transcript:

[00:00:25] Hello friends, and welcome back to the PrepWell Podcast and I hope everyone had a great Memorial Day weekend last week. This particular time of year is especially meaning for me for a number of reasons. It is, of course, a time to remember and pay our respects to the fallen military personnel. It's nearly the end of school. It's the beginning of summer. And because it's the time of year when we usher in a new cohort of freshmen prep welders, those graduating eighth graders who have been chomping at the bit to get going. We also migrate all of our freshmen to sophomore year. All the sophomores to junior year. All of our juniors to senior year and all of our seniors off to the great beyond. That is a lot of transition in a matter of a week. This year. I have one son who's about to graduate from high school. He'll be going to the Great Beyond in about three weeks at the Naval Academy, and I have my fourth and last son coming up the ranks and joining the prep program as a freshman. And so I thought I'd reflect on what each of these transitions means for each of these cohorts, given what's going on out there in the world of admissions. Because as I've mentioned many times in the past, while the process is not that different from what it was a few years ago, the strategies, the tactics, the mechanics, the blocking and tackling, the expectations and the realities of what this new crop of students face when it comes to college admissions is almost unrecognizable. So I'd like to review a couple of these revelations so that you might want to hit the reset button and potentially reframe how you and your child are thinking about this process.

[00:02:21] Now, I could talk about these issues for hours, but to respect your time, I'm going to try to provide just a few highlights for each cohort in a way that gets you to think about how you and of course, how your child are approaching these transitions. Why don't we start out with our bright eyed and bushy tailed recent eighth grade graduates who, from a prep world perspective, are now known as rising high school freshmen? What's going on with them? Well, the one thing that hasn't changed much in the last five years is the fact that not too many freshmen have the maturity to think 2 to 3 years into the future or to take actions now that we know will help them down the road. It's just it's not a thing in most cases. And yes, there will be an anomalous freshman who has the vision to think ahead, and they have the discipline to turn those thoughts into action. But they're pretty rare. And that, of course, is one of the biggest challenges that prep academy faces when it comes to engaging this younger cohort. Especially when it seems that left to their own devices, pun intended, every waking moment of their downtime is often dominated by swiping and scrolling on their phones or playing video games. These forms of entertainment are so addicting and so distracting that it's hard to get a 14 or 15 year old to focus on anything else too seriously. So as you and I deal with these rising freshmen and as I mentioned, I have one of these creatures in my home. There are a few things to focus on. Number one, managing the phone time. I don't even know where to start on this. If I had to do it over again, I'd give my children a phone in seventh grade that can text, make and receive phone calls, and that's it.

[00:04:23] No unfettered access to the Internet. 24 seven. And based on their behavior and their attitude and their ability to read and write and perform well in school and to be a good citizen during middle school. I would decide when or if to introduce access to the web. It's just it's too much too early for them to handle. And I know it's convenient and I know all their friends have smartphones with web access, and I know they don't want to come across as the weirdo with the flip phone. And I don't care. I'm the parent, I'm not the friend. And it's incumbent on me to make these tough decisions. Because 12, 13 and 14 year olds aren't equipped to do so. They will make the wrong decision. It's built into their biology. They can still call 911. They can still text you to pick them up on the back side of the gymnasium instead of the front. They can still communicate with their friends via text. Otherwise, with full web access at their fingertips, the number of ways they can get into trouble are unimaginable. I won't even list them here because we all know what they are. In our strategy to deal with this is to hope that our parenting is so spot on and our value system is so deeply ingrained that our children will decide on their own in the privacy of their own bedroom with no one home for hours at a time to do the right thing. That's a lot of trust and parenting skills. And will our kids be exposed to the filth and the craziness of the web when they're with their friends in the basement? Yes. But they won't have access 24 seven in their pocket. It's just not fair to trust them with this device.

[00:06:15] They don't know any better. All right. The second thing is making sure they start off on the right foot. Building good study habits, getting good grades, playing a sport, if that's their thing. Joining a club. Building a solid friend group You want to establish early wins with freshmen. My advice is to work extra hard in the first few months of freshman year, be even more vigilant than you normally would. Because these early wins will pay dividends down the road. You want to lock in good habits early in the game. I can't tell you how many parents I talked to who have children who have had bad freshman year experiences. They don't adjust well to an uptick in work to added responsibility and accountability to a new grading system, to the pace of learning, to the social dynamics. And add a smartphone to the mix and all of a sudden you're once all a student has all B's and a C in English. And boom, three quarters of the school year is over. And you wonder what just happened. Don't let this be you. This needs to be nipped in the bud. And then lastly for our freshmen cohort is try to orient them to the future. I know it's a challenge to get them to think about anything more than a day or so in advance, but do your best. Try to give them a vision about the future that they care about, that they can relate to. Whether that's having a great high school career that will help them get into a college or toward a fulfilling career or toward the development of a skill or a passion that they're interested in. Do your best to introduce the future to them. Explain how their behavior now will impact their future.

[00:08:08] Talk about delayed gratification. Talk about procrastination. And of course, this is the whole point of prep academy and why I, unlike 98% of all college admissions advisors. Begin the process in ninth grade instead of 11th grade. 11th graders are already set in their ways. Their die has been cast. And if you don't like what you see. Too bad. By then, the jig is up. So in summary, if you have a rising freshman. Find a way to manage their screen time. Build good habits early and try your best to orient them to the future. Okay. How about those rising sophomores? They've been through freshman year and survived, presumably. Now what? Well, I consider sophomore year the most important year of all. I call it the set up year. It sets the tone for the rest of their high school career. Freshman year gave them the opportunity to get their footing to figure out how the system works, to begin to build an identity. The pressure isn't quite as much as it will be next year as juniors. So this is the year that they really pull everything together. They figure out what extracurriculars are going to take center stage. They have to start prioritizing activities. They decide whether they have potential to play sports in college and at what level. They should by now have a good idea of how competitive they are academically and they have the opportunity to make a push one way or the other. They can lean into the academics and really go for it. Sign up for those AP classes. Those honors classes perform well in school and become one of the smart kids. Or they can live on their phones. Bumble through class used chat GPT to write their book reports in their essays, copy their math homework from a friend on the way to class and just slide through.

[00:10:17] These days, it's very easy to slide. Depending on the school that you go to, there's a lot of room to fake it. There are shortcuts everywhere you look and the results will eventually manifest themselves. As I've said in many past episodes, most students I work with on college essays as juniors and seniors can barely write a coherent paragraph. They can barely read for more than 2 to 3 minutes in a row uninterrupted. You can't become a good reader and writer by scrolling on your phone for hours at a time, years at a time, sitting on your bed. These are not skills that magically happen. Sophomore year is the year that your child should decide whether or not they are taking school and life and their future. Seriously. And I don't think that's too much to ask. If they decide to take life seriously. Prep will academy along with your guidance and reinforcement will give them what they need to succeed. Every week I will let them know what they should be thinking about, what they should be working on, what they should be avoiding. And if they take these messages seriously and act on the advice that I give them. Even half of the advice, they will be light years ahead of their peers. If they never log in, they never watch a video, they don't engage with their journals, They don't download the app on their phone. They're going to be on their own. And I'm not overly optimistic these days about what that is as a strategy. The theme for sophomore year. And what I hope you will impress upon your child is that decisions they make now. Right now, as a 15 or 16 year old sophomore matter. This isn't meant to be a pressure tactic.

[00:12:11] You don't have to hold a gun to their head. After all, kids are going to do what kids are going to do. You can't force them to be conscientious. You can't mandate that they keep a clean in an organized room. You can't demand that they start studying for an exam the weekend before the exam. You and I can only do so much. But in almost all cases, we need to do something. I will guarantee you this. If you leave sophomore year up to your child to figure out, without any guidance or any interventions or hard decisions, also known as parenting. They're going to flail nine out of ten times. They aren't intentionally torpedoing their lives. They're just faced with so many options to do nothing but scroll or smoke or vape or worse. That if you leave it up to them, things can start to unwind very quickly. So help your sophomore to decide that it's worth putting the work in now for a payoff down the road. And please use PredPol Academy as your blueprint to get there. What about Rising Jaws? If freshman year was all about starting off strong and sophomore year was all about deciding, that now matters. Then junior year is all about surviving the storm. If your child has taken the bait and they're on track to succeed, junior year will be a blur. It's that simple. Yes, it will be hard. The homework will pile up. The commitments will seem unwieldy. The standardized tests will keep coming and coming. And you will be praying for the year to end. Junior year is the crucible year of high school. It's where everything comes together and your child will be tested. That's okay. That's called life. This is a dress rehearsal for what they will find in the real world, in college and beyond college.

[00:14:19] Yes, it's scary. Yes, Your child could probably use more sleep. Yes. Your child may seem overly stressed at times. Yes. They're going to be nervous about their grades and their S.A.T. tests and how they're doing compared to their peers. This is all normal. This is reality. It's uncomfortable. Now, of course, things can get out of hand if taken to extremes. You may need to intervene, but a little old fashioned hard work and multitasking and overwhelm is okay. Put it this way, I would much rather see a junior who was slightly overwhelmed by homework or a project or the sports recruitment racket or SAT prep, then to see a listless, unengaged, phone dependent checked out junior who's mindlessly going through the motions. And of course, at the extremes. Neither of these are great outcomes. My point is, I'd rather ere on the side of engagement and hard work and pushing through the challenge and discomfort than the opposite. Understand that junior year is going to fly by. You'll be hanging on for dear life. You will witness your child pushing themselves like never before. And that's okay. If you need to intervene and mandate a little forced downtime, great. Go for it. Obviously, we don't want our kids to have mental breakdowns, but understand that it's meant to be challenging and your job is to be a calming force who supports their effort and prep academy is there to help you manage these ups and downs. My weekly videos are designed to give you a sanity check on where your child is supposed to be in the big scheme of things. And if they and you stay on top of the content, it should put your minds at ease that you're on the right track. Or it may prod you to pick up the pace a little bit if you're falling behind.

[00:16:22] Either way, it gives you a frame of reference to help you on that path. When it comes to rising seniors, this is a tough bunch to get a handle on because they're going to be all over the map. There will be these students who are way ahead of the power curve. They've already committed to elite colleges by September or October, usually for sports. There will be students who have their SATs and their assets already out of the way, who have their college essays done. They have their target list of colleges ready to go. These, of course, will be all of the prep lawyers who stuck to the plan over this summer. They will be confident. They will know where they stand in the admissions process. They will have a roadmap and they will be following it. And by November, they will likely have applied early to a few colleges. And many of them will be done with their applications and then they will wait to hear whether they get accepted, rejected or deferred. And they will have stuck to the script so well that they will not be panicked at all. No matter the outcomes of the admissions process. Accepted. Rejected. Deferred. Waitlisted. Because they know that they've done their best, they had a plan. They executed it to the best of their ability. They know that the skills and the mindset that they've developed during high school will help them succeed, whether they go to Princeton, whether they go to Pomona. And so they'll have a great senior year. They're not holding their breath to get into this school or that school. Because they know that they have what it takes, no matter where they get it, no matter what they do, where they go, they're not counting on a college to make them successful or not.

[00:18:06] They're counting on themselves. This is the very essence of a successful prep, whether not whether they got into MIT or Stanford. But that they learned a lot about themselves over the last few years. They have a vision for their future and they know that reaching that vision is up to them, not some $90,000 a year college. On the other extreme, there will be seniors who are flailing. They don't have a plan. They're way behind the eight ball. They're scrambling for letters of recommendation deep into September and October. They're in trouble because they want to apply early to a college, but they won't have a good S.A.T. score in time. They haven't even looked at the common application yet. And the world starts to close in on them. Unfortunately, this is what happens to a lot of seniors who don't have a plan or someone giving them advice as to what to do and when. The theme for senior year is closing the deal. They've worked hard for three years. They have a body of work which hopefully they're proud of. And now it's time to put all of that hard work into a college application that positions them in the best possible light. And then they let the chips fall where they may. Closing the deal means finishing strong, paying attention to their college applications, thinking about their future, what their college major might be, what a possible career might be. And bringing everything together all at once. And for those graduating seniors who are on their way to the great beyond, I wish them all luck as well. Whether they're taking a gap year, going to Harvey Mudd or UPenn or SDSU or Cal Maritime if they were prep lawyers. I hope the program served them well and that they will remember many of the lessons that they learned along the way.

[00:20:05] And of course, for all the non prep welders out there, I wish them luck as well. They may need even a little bit more than the prep brothers would. If you have a graduating senior who is on his or her way to college, to trade school, to community college, the military, I recommend listening to episode 98 called When the Horses Leave the Barn, where I lay out all the things that you as a parent might want to do before they leave for good. Because remember, 95% of the time we spend with our kids in our lifetimes happens before they go to college. Let that one sink in for a minute. 95% of the time we will spend with our kids in our lifetimes. Happens before they go to college. So use this time wisely. That's all I've got for you today, folks. Thank you for tuning in. Thank you for your continued support. In case you didn't know, this podcast supports prep academies, online mentoring program or 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 listened to this podcast already have their high schoolers 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 a sophomore in high school and you like what you're hearing in these podcasts and you like to get more content like this tailored specifically for your child, for their specific grade and with their specific goals in mind, go to Prep Academy and enroll today.

[00:22:00] If you're a parent with a middle schooler or high schooler that might find this helpful, please share the episode with them and give us a rating if you have a chance. Word of mouth and positive ratings help our podcast reach a much wider audience. If you have questions, comments, or an idea for an upcoming episode, please reach out to me by email. Demi on Instagram. Check out our blog, our Facebook page, or 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. 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.

Follow us:

If you want to support the show, here are three immediate steps to take. Subscribe to the podcast where ever you listen to podcasts

  1. Follow me on Instagram or Facebook
  2. Give us a review
  3. Share this episode with a friend
  4. Join our mailing list (by opting in on the homepage or in this article)
  5. Enroll your 9th or 10th grader in the program

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.

More From PrepWell

Get Started

Get Started With PrepWell Academy

This website uses cookies to create the best user experience. Learn more here. 
Copyright© 2020 PrepWell Academy, Inc. All Rights Reserved.