Counselors suggest encouraging teens to try something new, like a class or activity, in the new school year.
As teens begin to head back to high school, many will see changes.
Like Connecticut teens, for example, who will be required to take the SAT college admissions exam this year, The New York Times reported earlier this month. Connecticut joins several other states that require high schoolers take a college admissions test.
Then there are teens at one California high school who can take a new LGBT studies course, according to a report on SFGate.com.
And students at a Virginia high school will soon find out that their lockers were replaced with benches and laptop charging stations, according to a local news report. The school is jumping on the no-locker trend.
But as teens witness the changes around them, there are a few things they could do to better themselves this year. Parents can encourage their teens to try the following.
1. Clean up their online presence:
Many high schoolers don't realize what they post online could come back to haunt them later, in terms of their college and career plans, says Franciene Sabens, a school counselor at Chester High School in Illinois.
It's time for students to leave the middle school drama behind and think more deeply about their digital footprint and what it is going to do for them later, she says. "Is it going to hurt them? Or is it going to harm them?"
Now is the time for teens to purge less-than-favorable information and display a more mature image, she says.
[Find out how to talk to teens about being responsible on social media.]
2. Take a new class or extracurricular activity:
If a student even has an inkling they are interested in something, they should try it through an activity or class, says Julia Richardson, a school counselor at Campbell High School in Smyrna, Georgia.
It's important because high school is the time for students to figure out who they are, she says. Plus, they don't want to have any regrets.
Trying a new class or activity can help students build their confidence and self-efficacy, or their belief in their own abilities, she says. And it's good for students to challenge themselves with something new.
3. Plan for college and career:
A new activity or class could also influence a student's post-secondary plans, says Richardson, which is something both counselors think students should start planning for this year.
Students can create a four-year learning plan, says Sabens. And if students already have an idea of what their postsecondary goals are, they should take classes that relate, she says.
Those unsure of their after high school plans can explore online college and career planning websites like ACT Profile and Big Future, from the makers of the ACT and SAT college admissions tests, she says.
And Sabens recommends students meet with the in-house expert: the school counselor. Even a few minutes could be beneficial.
If the student can let the counselor know, "You know what, I have no idea what I am going to do with my life," says Sabens, that lets the counselor know to check in on that student and help get the process started.
[Discover how to lay the groundwork for college from freshman year of high school.]
Parents can help guide their students through these activities, but they shouldn't do it all for them, Sabens says.
Sometimes parents of high schoolers have a hard time letting go and letting students figure things out, she says.
"When we do that as parents, we actually make it more difficult for them later in life," she says. "In a way, they have to show them, these are the resources, these are the things that are there for you and you have to decide whether you want to do them or not for yourself."