Here are some tips from Orange County parents of high schoolers, for the parents just about to begin the experience:
* Meet with your child's academic advisor to draw up a four-year plan of classes. The plan can change, but it's good to have one and know what the requirements are for graduation and for admission to colleges and universities.
* Bring a low lawn chair to sports meets unless you know for sure that bleachers are available.
* If your child seems to be floundering in a particular class, start by calling the teacher. Teachers appreciate parental involvement.
* Athletic teams often have to begin practice in late summer, instead of waiting for the school year to start. Plan vacations and other activities accordingly.
* Find out from your guidance office the dates for the important college admissions tests: PSAT, SAT, ACT and SAT II. The office will tell you when your child should take the tests. Ask about opportunities for practice exams that can give you a good idea of where your teen might need extra help.
* Whatever your child might tell you, limousines are not mandatory for school dances.
* If your teenager is uncommunicative about school and you're wondering whether he or she is taking care of all assigned homework, consider this solution: Many high schools offer a weekly sign-in sheet. The students take the sheet around to teachers, who indicate how the student is doing so far and whether all assignments have been completed. A guidance counselor generally checks the sheet, which your child then brings home to you.
* Notice drastic changes in your child's attitude, dress and friends.
* Make sure you're familiar with the school's schedule; high school students often have more flexibility than they did in the lower grades. Some days might call for early starts or late finishes. Don't expect your child always to be on top of these; make your own inquiries.
* Advanced-placement and many honors classes give an extra grade point; for example, an A in an advanced class might be graded a 5.0 instead of 4.0. If your child has the ability and interest in tackling those classes, he or she can significantly boost the grade-point average.
* Be aware that students who are already in honors or advanced classes frequently are given first crack at the advanced classes in the next grade level. But you often can successfully ask to have your child placed in an advanced class anyway.