College test prep has never been especially easy or fun; telling a teenager that their college admissions journey hinges on a three-hour standardized test has been a tough sell since the inception of the SAT and the ACT. The COVID-19 pandemic further complicated the challenges of college test prep, thrusting students into a remote learning environment at an uncertain and frightening time when the future of college admissions hung in the balance.

As we approach the end of Mental Health Awareness Month, we find ourselves reflecting more deeply on the importance of tending to the mental wellbeing of teenagers and schoolchildren throughout the educational landscape. With the June SAT looming over the horizon, we thought we would offer some tips for parents to help nurture the mental health of their teenagers as they venture forth in their SAT/ACT prep.

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DO Get Involved

Preparing for standardized tests can be overwhelming, especially when you have to go it alone. Show your child that you care by jumping into the process! Check in regularly and ask how their work is going. Reach out to your child's test prep tutor and learn more about their strengths and weaknesses. The more involved you are, the easier it will be to motivate your teenager to push forward when times are tough.

DON'T Panic Your Child

Trust us: your teen is well aware of the importance of studying hard for the ACT/SAT. While you should always make sure that they are staying on top of their homework, putting too much pressure on young people can often lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues that could persist into their adult lives. Plus, when it comes to mastering these tests, confidence is key. You should always push your child to succeed, but never at the cost of their self-esteem.

DO Your Homework

Prepping for these tests isn't only a matter of answering the questions correctly! While you certainly don't need to become an expert on all things SAT — that's our job — it couldn't hurt to do a little research on how these tests work and affect college admissions. Knowing a few helpful strategies will make your teen feel supported because they have an additional resource to fall back on.

DON'T Encourage Cramming

Ideally, your teen should be studying for the SAT/ACT for about 10-20 minutes per day; mastering these tests is all about practice, and the more you practice, the higher you’ll score. However, there's a difference between studying frequently and cramming. If a child feels pressured to cram, their performance will suffer. The best test-takers are those who feel relaxed and prepared, a feeling that comes with working smart, not hard.

DO Provide Positive Reinforcement

College test prep is hard! At times, studying for these exams feels like dragging a cruise ship over a mountain. In other words, every step forward matters! Even a 10-point score improvement is worth celebrating, so don't forget to make your child feel accomplished. This will motivate them to aim even higher!

DON'T Get Discouraged

Other times, it can feel like your child is barely improving at all. These are the moments when your teen might be tempted to give up entirely. Remind them that Rome wasn't built in a day, and don't forget to be their cheerleader from time to time. This is why it's important to celebrate the small victories. Don't allow your own worries to add fuel to theirs — keep the hope alive so your child doesn't lose theirs.

Contact us so you can learn more about how to support your teen's mental health during their ACT/SAT prep.