Welcome to the second half of the school year! We hope you had a restful winter break.

Get ready to jump back in the school groove because we want to hit 2020 at full speed.

As the semester begins, we suggest you sit down with your student and review their previous half of the year: what worked and what didn’t? In order to clearly plan out the next semester, we recommend discussing three categories.

START: What’s missing? What could make your student’s life easier?

Our example: if your student struggles with note-taking, connect with teachers and ask about printing out PowerPoint slides or outlines ahead of time so your student has more guided notes and can add their own thoughts next to teachers’ notes.

STOP: What was a habit that really didn’t serve your student? What can you shift?

Our example: stop studying just by “looking over notes.” When your student does great classwork and homework, actively participates in discussions, and has a good understanding of material yet does poorly on tests, approach studying differently. Try a few active methods of studying (flashcards, parent quizzing student out loud, etc.). It’s always ok to look at a method and say, “This isn’t working!” Adjust as needed.

CONTINUE: Where was your student successful last semester? What helped them achieve that success?

Our example: your student attended their math teacher’s study sessions, which helped them to gradually boost their grade over the course of the semester. Make sure to keep that up this semester and schedule that time into their weekly routine so they maintain their success!

“Start, Stop, Continue” looks different for every student. Maybe your student had a really successful semester, and they need to focus on the “continue” piece so their hard work and confidence are reflected in their grades. There are always a few things to help your good student become a great student. On the other hand, maybe your student had a rough semester, and it’s time to sit down and clearly lay out what didn’t work (and make the appropriate adjustments).

This planning is great to do as the semester starts, but it should be something you and your student revisit throughout the year!

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    Evaluating personal quality of work and understanding of material is difficult for many students. When assessing themselves, students often struggle to differentiate intelligence from their understanding of a topic, or from the quality of their work. Self-assessment isn’t about how smart a student is; it’s about their strengths, areas of opportunity, and most importantly, what can they adjust to achieve better results.

    For students with executive function challenges, this can be especially hard. They spend so much time trying to “prove” themselves to teachers, parents, and friends that it can be tough to approach their challenges from the perspective of “how can I improve and understand better,” and not “other students get this but I don’t.” (Some of our students are very self-aware socially, but lack self-assessment academically.) As educators, mentors, and parents, we need to help our students navigate this topic while building their confidence.

    Breaking through a student’s defensive barrier takes a strong relationship and rapport. This relationship, built on trust, is important to help students self-assess and develop a more cumulative understanding of themselves. ​Additionally, many of the students we work with live deeply in the moment. Although it’s an admirable quality, this can lead to a lack of perspective, and very little time is spent on self-reflection. Here are some questions – and more importantly, follow up questions – we can ask students to help them build self-assessment skills and encourage reflection.

    What time of day do you perform best?

    After a difficult day, how do you recover in order to study or complete your nightly routine?

    If forced to learn something quickly, what do you do?

    What type of people do you work best with?

    How long can you study before “zoning out?”

    For each of these questions, dig deeper and ask these open-ended questions to spark reflection:

    What works for you, and why?

    What are some examples?

    How can we use this to make you a better student?

    Use the answers from these questions when:

    ● Creating routines (the hardest tasks should be completed at the time you perform best)

    ● Deciding what time to study and complete homework

    ● Determining if/when to attend office hours and other formal study groups

    ● Deciding where to study

    Thinking through questions like these, especially open-ended questions, will help students develop a stronger understanding of how/when/where/etc. they learn best. ​It’s important to revisit these questions frequently; students are constantly evolving!

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      Updated: Oct 15, 2019

      Over an extended period of time, our students often shift from a “below average” student to a “good student.” A student’s progress is typically measured by improvement in grades, work ethic, work completion, etc. Students begin to feel proud and excited about their success, as do parents and mentors. After a student moves from “below average” to “good,” there is a next step. (There’s always a next step!)

      At Untapped, we have a conversation about going from “good to great” with our students. This leap from good to great can be even more challenging than the shift from below average to good. To ensure success as a great student, habits need to become more disciplined and students’ advocacy skills must advance and strengthen.

      Here’s what we recommend to help your good student become a great student.

      Utilizing Resources

      Great students can recognize when they don’t understand a concept, and they ask for help from either a teacher, tutor, or peer. They don’t let their egos get in the way of their motivation to succeed, and they use resources like office hours and designated study sessions. They know that teachers thoroughly review material that will be on exams during study sessions, and they take advantage of this opportunity. Great students utilize their resources because they know that the most successful people have the most help.

      Maintaining Routines

      We always emphasize the importance of routines, and the transition from good to great is no exception; great students have disciplined routines. As students get older and take more advanced courses, consistent routines ensure they miss nothing and maximize their attention. Additionally, routines decrease stress because students know what to expect.

      For example, the average college student might pull an all-nighter to cram for a final because they didn’t prepare adequately or have a set study routine. When they take the test the following day, they’re fatigued, anxious, and don’t do as well as a “great” student who followed a set study routine the week leading up to the final. This great student retained the material by committing to short and frequent study sessions for at least a week leading up to the test. Their routine was solid and fended off any stress or anxiety.

      This applies to school work outside of studying as well. Great students split large assignments and projects into manageable, actionable pieces. Knowing how to break down these assignments and staying disciplined in completing the small tasks leads to large results.

      Interacting with Materials

      Good students sit still in class, take notes, and understand the materials, but great students take it a step further. Great students deeply engage with the class and the materials by frequently asking themselves questions, connecting the material to their background knowledge, and attempting to understand why the material is important and relevant to “the bigger picture.” For instance, a good student will memorize the dates of famous battles during the Civil War. A great student will learn those dates, but also study what preceded each battle and the universal questions surrounding leadership, our country’s values, and succession. This engagement on a deeper level will transfer across content areas, and great students will remember the new information better because they’ve given it more meaning. Great students are the people professors and teachers are truly passionate about working with.


      Self-care is an incredible life skill that leads to a happy and well-balanced adult. As parents, you know that you need to take care of yourself in order to best support those around you!

      Great students understand the importance of getting adequate sleep, eating a balanced diet, and incorporating movement into their life. Neglecting any of those daily necessities results in the collapse of that balance. Additionally, great students are often involved in extracurricular activities and are invested in their school community and relationships to their peers. This involvement forces them to schedule their time carefully, which often results in better performance academically (in addition to success in their lives outside of school).

      Students have to maintain balance. Time for themselves, friends, and family is crucial to self-care. Great students, despite being busy, organize their schedules and carve out time to engage with those people most important in their lives.

      Implementing these tips will help any student striving for greatness to succeed in school and beyond their academic careers!

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