This month, College & Career Coach Ashley LeSaicherre digs into how students’ choices in high school have an impact on their post-secondary options. She teamed up with Robin Tullier, Career Compass College & Career Awareness Seminar Supervisor, to share some advice on how to approach the new school year.

It is that time of year again! Summer is over and school is starting! The beginning of a school year brings excitement for students and teachers. There are no grades to pull up, and no missed assignments. Students start with a blank slate, and can start fresh with the new academic year. We have some great advice for students as they head back to school.

Students, goal setting is a great way to set into place what you want from this school year. Need a reminder? Check out our S.M.A.R.T blog.

When you set goals as a student in high school, grades tend to be the first thing that comes to mind. Many of you will have a certain GPA that you want to attain. When you are in high school, it is important to know that the grades you make during your whole high school career matter. Yes, even when you are a freshman! Each choice and decision you make will affect your grades.

Did you do your homework? Do you go to school regularly? Did you complete your paper? If you didn’t understand something in class, did you ask your teacher for additional help? Did you study for your Biology exam? If you aren’t great at taking exams, did you complete all of your homework? Having a good homework grade can often help you compensate for lower exam grades.  These are things that are within your control, and you have the power to decide to do these things, or not. The choices you make - wise or not - have consequences.

If you choose not to do these things, your grades will reflect your decisions and it will be difficult to bring up your final grade at the end of the school year. If you have made it to high school, you understand this idea. Something that is different in high school than in middle school is that the final grades you make in each class (even electives!) build on each other and will affect your future.

Keep in mind that there are GPA requirements for the TOPS scholarships and others. Not having a certain GPA jeopardizes your chances of having your post secondary education paid for. The sooner students understand this concept, the better they can prepare for their futures.

Let us walk you through a scenario:

Andrew is starting his senior year in high school. When he was a freshmen, he studied, completed his assignments on time, and was a good student. His GPA at the end of his 9th grade year was a 3.5. He followed the same path his sophomore and junior year. Now moving into his senior year, not only is he able to get out of school before lunch, but he can really focus and excel in his last few classes in high school. He will have the GPA necessary to get into a four-year university and receive the TOPS Scholarship, if he chooses to take that path. Was it hard work to maintain his grades while in high school? Yes, but now his post high-school opportunities are endless.

Let’s talk about Greg now:

Greg and Andrew are classmates, and Greg didn’t have the same focus as Andrew during high school. He barely squeaked by his freshman through junior years and made a 1.5 GPA. Now that he is a senior, he wants to improve his GPA so he can go to a four-year school. Even if Greg earns a 4.0 GPA his senior year, he is going to struggle to get accepted because universities look at a student’s cumulative GPA. That means they look at what his final grades were from freshmen year all the way through senior year. Now, Greg has to change his plans. Luckily there are still options for him, but he has fewer choices than Andrew has.

We imagine some of you are thinking - I don’t want to go to four-year university, so does my GPA matter? The answer is YES! Community colleges and technical schools are great options, and you will need to have a high school diploma in order to enroll. What do you need to get a high school diploma? You need to pass your classes, and have enough credits to graduate, which all comes back to your GPA.

It is very important to know that each choice you make, no matter how small, really affects your grades. YOU earn your grades, whether you receive an A or an F. Your teachers do not give you certain grades because they do not like you. You are responsible for your actions.

For parents of high school students reading this: Make sure you discuss this concept with your children. It is easy for them to get caught up in social activities, sports, or just the daily distractions teenagers face. Keeping them on track will help, ultimately preparing them to become responsible hard-working adults.

Let’s start this school year off right! Everyone at Career Compass believes that you can do whatever you set your mind to!

About Ashley: Ashley is a Career Compass College & Career coach in Tangipahoa Parish. She attended St. Thomas Aquinas Regional Catholic High School in Hammond. She earned a bachelor's degree in business (marketing) from Louisiana State University. Ashley will soon have her first child with husband, Andrew.

About Robin: Robin is a Career Compass College & Career Awareness Seminar Supervisor. She attended high school at Central Private School in Baton Rouge. She graduated from Louisiana State University with a bachelor's degree in business (marketing). She and her husband, Brad, reside in Baton Rouge with their two children.