Q&A: Our daughter’s a freshman. Should we be concerned about her grades?

A friend and parent of a high school freshman just asked:QandA block

Q.  You know our daughter; she’s very interested in athletics, and not so much in academics. She does okay, but I’m wondering:  should we be concerned about her grades this year?

A.  Ahhh. That’s a question each family has to answer for itself, since the level of concern that one might have (I won’t take on “should”) depends upon so many factors, such as:

  • How much time does she spend on schoolwork compared to her peers?
  • How stressed does she get now about her schoolwork?
  • How do her grades compare to what you think she’s capable of achieving?
  • What sort of colleges do you hope she could attend?

Then you might consider this, which seems obvious now, but we still had to learn by going through it with our first child:

While we talk about the elements of the student’s high school record–course selections, grade point average (GPA), and extracurriculars–that go into a college application, the application process is timed so we’re really talking about a high school record of the first three years.

"The Freshman"

“The Freshman”

Most seniors submit their applications anywhere from mid-October for an early admission application to the end of December for a regular admission application. The transcript will, in most cases, indicate course selections and a GPA through the end of junior year. The student’s extracurriculars could include the first part of senior year, but any opportunity to demonstrate strong areas of interest and leadership would require taking action in earlier years.

Guidance counselors will try to help students understand the importance of their grades and increased rigor in course selections from year to year.

It can be hard, though, for a freshman or sophomore to take this as seriously as the parents might (or as the parents might want her to).

I wrote recently about a UVa admissions counselor visiting our high school. (See Straight talk from a UVa admissions counselor:  everything’s important.) After that session, one of the attending parents complained at length to the guidance counselors that they didn’t require all students to come listen to the admissions counselor. The counselors responded that none of the information was different from that they shared with students when planning course selections every year. The parent insisted that students would pay more attention to the UVa representative than they would to the high school counselors and, certainly, to their own parents.

That may well be. I have no idea what works in other households; I barely know what works with our own teens. When we were trying to get their attention–talking about courses, grades, or extracurriculars–we tended to (and still do) talk about doing the best they could to keep as many options available to them as possible, whether that’s access to college or an internship or a job.

Good luck!

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Filed under Getting In, High School

7 responses to “Q&A: Our daughter’s a freshman. Should we be concerned about her grades?

  1. If she’s into athletics, that may be the way to get her attention. Colleges are recruiting earlier and the first thing a coach will ask about are grades and test scores. And given how unlikely it is to get a college athletic scholarship, students shouldn’t be allowed to use athletics as “the ticket” to college. She doesn’t have to be a straight A student, but she needs to understand that some low grades can elminate future opportuniites.

  2. Good points here. We gave our kids the same talk about doing their best so they had their choice of colleges and a better chance at scholarships. Michelle is also right that colleges care about grades and scores of student athletes. Some colleges offer academic/merit-based scholarships to athletes.

  3. I think this is why early college planning is so important for high school students. If students knew that their freshman grades were part of their overall GPA, they might put in a little more effort.


    • Thanks for the comment. I agree with you, and I also think guidance counselors have to walk a fine line with students and their families. Some parents are eager to push their students to the best of their capabilities; others raise concerns about the schools pushing students too hard. We’ve all heard (or said), “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe they’re talking to us about college already!” Meanwhile, our HS freshman has seen two older siblings work through college applications. He paid more attention this year — and gained a finer appreciation for how his current work can impact his future opportunities. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. Thanks, again!

  4. Pingback: How close to home is too close? | Dr. StrangeCollege or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Journey

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