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Planning and preparing for the SAT and ACT is tough proposition. Let our experts make it easier for you and your student by reviewing some of the many options available to improve scores, grow scholarship offers, and get into the best college!

Is Your Child Trying At School? Find Out If They’re Giving Their All

Your child’s academic success is far from guaranteed. Amidst all the factors that determine academic success and failure, hard work is probably the most critical.  However, it’s difficult to find out if your child is really trying,  because he or she spends seven or eight hours a day in school, far out of sight.

Parents can gauge their child’s effort in school by talking to their child and his or her teachers, looking at grades and study skills, and keeping an eye on the child’s motivation and friends.

Below you can read about how to evaluate your child’s effort in school while preparing for college. A Prep Expert course in the SAT or ACT can help with this goal by raising his or her test scores.

Talk To Your Child About His Or Her Effort

Gather feedback as you talk to your child regularly about what hard work looks like. As you give detailed advice, listen to what he or she says.

As the saying goes, the most candid feedback comes straight from the horse’s mouth. Your child will tell you in countless ways how hard he or she is working.  You just have to know how to listen. Of course, most kids won’t get themselves in trouble, and so they will always say their effort in school is up to par.

To find out what is really going on and get beneath the surface, you can probe your child during normal conversations. For instance, as your child is getting ready for school in the morning, you could encourage him or her to double check answers on a math test. Then, simply listen to how your son or daughter responds. Does your child mention that he or she already has a strategy in place? Does your son or daughter shrug off your advice?  Over time, these little conversations will paint an accurate picture of your child’s attitude toward putting in extra effort at school.

Look At The Online Gradebook

If your child is getting low grades or not turning in assignments, he or she isn’t trying hard enough.

You have a tool at your disposal that your parents probably didn’t have: access to an online gradebook. If you see a zero for a homework assignment, that’s a pretty straightforward indication that your child isn’t trying hard enough. The same goes for low test scores.

Parents should be cautioned against relying too much on online gradebooks, though. Remember, you are training your son or daughter for success in college, where no one will be monitoring his or her grades.  If your child is micromanaged, he or she may fail to develop the planning, scheduling, and other organizational skills that are necessary for success in the long run.

The best approach is to hold your son or daughter accountable to keeping track of things on his or her own.  A planner is a very practical tool that your child can quickly learn to use, and you can easily check. Also, continue to check the online gradebook. When you see missing assignments in the gradebook, tighten the leash on how often you check your son or daughter’s planner.

Check If You Child Studies For Tests

If your child isn’t preparing for tests and quizzes, he or she isn’t giving it his or her all.

Does your son or daughter put in extra time to study for an upcoming test?  Does he or she put everything off until the last minute and then try to cram the night before a test? Evaluating how your child studies for tests gives you an indication of his or her level of overall effort in school.

A student who has consistently studied should only need to review for a test. For example, if a history test on the Civil War covers one month of class time, a hard-working child will only need to review for it. The stakes are still huge, because the child might be hazy on some of the details, such as names of battles or generals. But with a little painless review, these details come back into focus. Most hard-working students know how valuable studying for a test is, so they won’t pass it up.

For a student who has been lazy all along, studying for a test is harder, because he or she is learning the material for the first time. The lazy student is likely to either cram for the test, or not study at all. Parents can look at both as indications that a child hasn’t been giving enough effort in school.

Examine Your Child’s Study Habits

Without good study habits, your child isn’t giving it his or her all.

Disorganized and unfocused people can never meet their full potential. Even the simplest tasks in life, like getting ready in the morning, can become hopelessly complicated if your surroundings are a mess.  This doesn’t bode well for disorganized students because doing well in school is not a simple task. As the subjects become more challenging, your son or daughter will need increasingly sophisticated study habits, organizational skills, and planning skills to meet that challenge.

Your child should keep a planner with due dates, should study free from the distraction of social media, and have his or her notes clearly organized by subject. Without these, and other, simple study and organizational skills, your son or daughter’s effort will be unfocused. For example, if your son or daughter has an essay due in two weeks, he or she could be writing for half an hour a night.  This type of focused effort could never happen if your son or daughter forgets about the essay because it’s not written in a planner. So, lack of organization and planning makes proper effort impossible.

How To Gauge Inner Motivation

Inner-motivation is necessary for a student to do his or her best.

Your son or daughter can’t be giving maximum effort if he or she isn’t motivated. Researchers have found that motivated students have increased effort and energy in school, will complete tasks even when frustrated by setbacks, have increased attentiveness, and are more engaged cognitively. That’s quite a list!

The type of motivation is critical, as well. Researchers say that intrinsic motivation produces better results than extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is when a student enjoys a topic because he or she finds it interesting.  Extrinsic motivation is when a student is motivated by factors outside himself or herself, and factors unrelated to the subject, such as grades or recognition. So, you should try to find out what your son or daughter is truly interested in. Is your child interested in robotics?  That interest should lead to increased motivation in subjects such as math, physics, and computer science.

If you child doesn’t have any interest in a subject, he or she probably isn’t trying hard enough, because the benefits of intrinsic motivation will be missing.  Though it’s hard to gauge motivation, you can gather glimpses through conversations with your child and his or her teachers.

Talk To Teachers

Talk to your child’s teachers to see if he or she is focused in school.

One of the best windows into your child’s level of effort in school is the people who see him or her there every day: teachers. Most schools have nights set up multiple times a year for parents to come and talk to all of a child’s teachers.  Obviously, you should take advantage of these times to ask about your child’s effort in class.

Ask each teacher questions related to your child’s level of effort in class: Is he or she distracted in class? Do he or she complete in-class work?  Does your son or daughter find the subject interesting?  Most teachers are keenly aware of answers to these questions and can provide you with solid feedback.  Also, most teachers will gladly stay in touch with you through email if you want to ask about your child’s effort in school through that medium.

Ensure Study Is Free From Distractions

Social media makes it so students can’t give it their all because they can’t focus.

A recent survey found that 64 percent of American students said that social media distracted them from studying.  While students estimated that they spent an hour a day on social media, some studies put that number as high as nine hours a day.  Given this level of distractedness, your son or daughter cannot be trying hard enough if he or she studies with social media available.

The best approach is to study without access to a phone, and perhaps without the internet.  While this may seem drastic, most students will quickly see the value it brings.

Get To Know Your Child’s Friends

Your son or daughter is more likely to give maximum effort in school when his or her friends do so.

It might not seem fair to evaluate a person by the quality of his or friends.  However, peer pressure, both positive and negative, affects teenage decision-making more than adult decision-making.  It’s likely that if your son or daughter sees friends decide to study on a regular basis, he or she will follow suite and do so as well.  Conversely, if all of your son or daughter’s friends never study, this is probably affecting his or her decision-making negatively.

Your child’s friends are only an indirect indicator of how hard he or she works in school.  While you can’t solely evaluate your child’s effort based off of his or her friends, you can’t ignore this factor either.  There is a good chance your child has habits similar to those of his or her friends.



Prep Expert

Prep Expert is a test-preparation company that offers 6-week online and in- person SAT and ACT prep classes. There’s a reason Prep Expert founder Shaan Patel closed an investment deal with billionaire Mark Cuban on ABC’s primetime TV Shark Tank. We teach students 100 strategies Shaan developed himself to improve his own SAT score from average to perfect. We offer double the course hours at half the price with top instructors. We also offer the best score guarantees in the industry: if your child does not improve his or her score by at least 200 points on the SAT (or 4 points on the ACT) after completing our 6-week course, you get your money back!