COLLEGE BOUND: The Ultimate List of Conversations to Help Your Teen Through High School

College Bound: The Ultimate List of Conversations to Help Your Teen Through High School |

Written By Melanie Studer

Melanie Prather Studer has spent the last thirty years as a mother and teacher- preschool through middle school. When her kids became teenagers, Melanie started keeping notes and doing research to help her children get a head start on getting into college and ultimately out into the real world. She shares real world ideas and solutions for raising teens in today’s world.

June 19, 2020

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I wrote a book about having conversations with your teens.

It has been a life long dream of mine to write a book.  When I was young, and I loved reading the Little House books, I thought that I would write a story about a pioneer family.  Well, it turns out that I have a lot to say about parenting teens.  So, I wrote about having conversations with your teens to help them figure out life.

Have you got a teen or two in your house?  For awhile, we had three teenage boys.  Our oldest is now in his 20s, and we have survived so far.  One thing that we have used in our parenting journey is conversation.  Lots of talking. Here’s a link to another post, 5 Ways to Improve Communication With Your Teen.

College Bound came about as a way for me to give back to other parents.  My husband and I struggled to find our way parenting our teens with no real road map in our hands.  There is no “what to expect” when your teen is 13 or 15 or 18….!  We stumbled onto a system of having regular conversations with our teens.  It has really worked for each of our boys, and they are all as different as they can be. *This post may contain affiliate links.  This means , at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase.

Grab the Conversation freebies here!  I realized since publishing my book that I left out the questions and conversation starters for the end of each conversation-ugggh!  So, here is a link to that list of questions.  

College Bound: The Ultimate List of Conversations to Help Your Teen Through High School|

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Did we use magic?

Many of you might scratch your head and wonder how it is that we got our teenage boys to talk.  It was not magic, if that’s what you’re wondering.  We started these “talks” when the boys were younger, always around the time that their grades arrived home.  This occurred about every six weeks.  You too, can talk to your teens.

The beauty of this system was that it happened regularly.  The boys knew that when their grades came home, we would soon be setting up a time to meet with each of them one-on-one.  (And, just so you know, our expectations were that they get all As and Bs.  The occasional C was only ok if they were trying their hardest in a subject that was hard for them.)  They knew that whether or not we were pleased with their grades, a meeting would occur. It was amazing how many times we had to tell them to do better in school-still do to this day!  It was a good and regular interval of time to have these conversations.  Our teens could talk about all sorts of things that were going on in their lives at that particular time in their lives.

Keep in mind that my husband and I are not parenting experts.  Far from it.  However, we have gotten one kid out of his teens and into his senior year of college.  Another is into his sophomore year of college, and our baby is entering high school.  This has been a fun, but challenging journey.  I hope that some of what has worked for us will work for you!

About the book…

I have broken College Bound into 14 conversations.  They range in topics from setting up a college budget, obtaining letters of recommendation, contacting colleges with questions to finding scholarships, and more. Each chapter covers a conversation, why each is important, different things to think about, and how to talk about each topic.

There are many other conversations with your teens that need to occur, but for the sake of the book, these topics were the ones I felt were the most important when thinking about college and life prep.

Will these topics matter if my child decides not to attend college?

Yes.  All of these topics matter because if your child decides to go into the military, get a job, or go to trade school a resume will always be a good thing to leave high school with.  Grades and test scores will matter.  Maybe not to the degree as getting into college, but the real world is competitive. 

The better your teen looks coming out of high school compared to the next guy who is applying for the same program, the better their chances for getting that job or higher rank or whatever!

Have you grabbed my high school parent toolkit yet?  It is a blueprint for staying organized through all four high school years!  Get it here!

Isn’t this common sense?

A lot of it is common sense.  When we first started out in these teen years with our oldest, the amount of things that we did not know was overwhelming.  This book was born out of frustration with not knowing what to ask or even who to ask about parenting teens. Counselors at high schools are awesome, but totally overworked.  They are also usually trying to help those kids with no support systems in place. 

It seemed like other parents had the same questions as we had. So, between my husband and I, we started researching and asking questions to anyone who looked like they might have an answer.  I read books, Googled a lot of things, and we both asked parents with older teens what had worked for them.

Have lots of conversations with your teens!

We talked with our kids a lot.  Note the use of “with” and not “to”.  Of course, there were times that we did talk to our kids, but we really wanted to engage them in conversation.  There were times that it seemed like our conversations were going nowhere fast, but then one of the boys would make a decision that made sense.  Or one of them would tell us something that gave us a glimpse into the fact that maybe we were making some sort of headway into this parenting thing.

Parenting teens is NOT for the faint of heart.  It takes consistency, patience, and stamina to say the least.  Remember that many, if not all, of these conversations will need to take place gradually.  Start where you are. Having conversations with teens is not for the faint of heart! If none of these topics have been discussed before, then choose one.  Talk with your spouse or significant other first to make sure you are in agreement or at least know where you each stand.  Teens are super smart and will be able to tell if you guys are not of the same mind.  They will use this to their advantage every time, so be prepared!

Do not try to talk about all of this at once!  Have discussions a little at a time, and spread them out.  It would be really easy to overwhelm both you and your teen.

The key is to just start.

Just because your teen might not be talking to you at this moment, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t start these conversations.  Try to find some common ground.  Call a truce. Talk about starting this in the context of making plans.  Most teens are wanting to talk about the future, they are feeling lots of mixed emotions.  They are scared, excited, overwhelmed, and usually have many questions if given the right situation.

These conversations with your teens are for them to start the process of preparing to leave your home.  These are all topics that need to be covered in most situations.  Set some goals together.  Make the time.  Remember not to lecture, but have discussions.  Let your teen talk and ask questions.  Try not to interrupt.

My teen thinks that they know it all.

I feel your pain.  Have them do some research about the thing or things that they are trying to convince you of.  This has worked for us, a lot.  We had one son, who really thought he knew a lot about a lot.  He is super smart, but through his research online and asking around, he realized that maybe we knew a few things as well.  This was something that we let him discover over time on his own.

We also have learned so much about parenting teens.  Our teens were smarter and more responsible than we had given them credit for.  Patience was something that we had to use in all of these conversations.  We learned how and when to shelf a discussion for later without everyone getting mad–not always, but most of the time.  There is also the fact that our teens have so much going on in their lives, that they really appreciated these times to debrief and make plans.

Try to have some conversations with your teens!

Set up a time to have a conversation with your teen.  Let them know when and why you are wanting to do this.  Tell them that there will be time for them to talk about things that they want to talk about as well.  Start out short and sweet.  See what works, and what doesn’t.  Each child and each conversation will be different.  Take notes.  Try again soon.  Grab my book, College Bound now! 

You will hopefully find that your relationship with your teen will improve.  It won’t always be great, but in general, your kids will talk more in every day situations than they used to.  They will have more questions.  They want to plan for their own future, and you will find out that it is really fun to do this! Grab my three freebies for this system here.  They are:

         1. Template for keeping notes from each conversation.

         2. Conversation starters.

         3. Tips for success when starting this plan.

Download these freebies to help talk with your teen about college

There may be more going on with your teen than you think.  Talking with them will hopefully help to bridge that gap, if there is one, between you and your teen.  If there is more going on than you can handle, here is the link to a good post about your teen and drugs.  If you think that your teen may be depressed, check out this link for more information.

Share any ideas that you have that might help the rest of us!  I can’t wait to hear what works for you. Remember to get College Bound here. Related posts:  Our 2 1/2 Rules for Raising Teens5 Ways to Improve Communication With Your Teen, 7 Things to Know If You Love a Teenager  and 6 Books You Should Read If You Are Parenting Teens!

College Bound:  The Ultimate List of Conversations to Help Your Teen Through High School|

Talk with your teens! Use my tips for success.


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  1. Thanks so much for providing this incredible roadmap! This book contains the concrete information parents everywhere have been desperate for.

    • I hope that it really helps! I know when my kids were young teens, I felt very overwhelmed and not sure where to put our focus that would be the most effective. That is where this book was born!

  2. Kudos to you! And what an incredible topic to write about!

    • Whew… I had/have 3 guinea pigs to use for my research! But, seriously, it’s hard to find one source that includes answers to a lot of the questions that parents have for these crazy high school years! It’s been a labor of love, truly.

  3. I am so pinning this! Mine are still young, but I want to keep this on file!

    • Thank you! I hope that it helps when the time comes!

  4. Awesome book! I’m recommending it to all my kids (who are parenting their middle and high schoolers!).

    • Thank you:) I hope that it is helpful to all who have teens and don’t know what to do to help them get through high school and into their futures. These conversations have really been helpful with our teens.

  5. These are great tips for parents, our son graduated from Bowie State University last fall. #proudparent

    • Congratulations! We have a senior now, and I hear that these post-college years are a whole new challenge for parents. I’m seeing a little now because I can’t help him as much as he moves into this new phase on his own.


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