Tenth grade is a banner year for most kids. For the most part, the classes your child takes this year will determine the courses your child will be qualified to take in grades 11 and 12.
In terms of preparing for college, it's an important time, since AP and honors classes require prerequisites that your child will need to be fulfilling this year and next. You and your child should have an open discussion and strategically map out classes together.
Sophomore year also marks the beginning of standardized testing. This year, students can take a practice PSAT/NMSQT — a preparatory step for the PSAT/NMSQT and SAT next year. For students planning on taking the ACT, the PLAN assessment is also administered in their sophomore year. If it hasn't already started, it's buckle-down time!
Encourage preliminary testing
Make sure your child gets in touch with the school guidance counselor about taking the PSAT/NMSQT. Although the "real" PSAT/NMSQT is taken in October of junior year, this is a great way for your child to get familiar with the test.
In ACT regions, they should ask about the PLAN schedule. The PLAN helps immensely in predicting your child's performance on the ACT.
Both tests will help your child prepare for the "big" tests next year.
Get a head start
It's also time to start checking out college fairs and possibly meeting with school representatives that come to town. Encourage your child to start investigating schools by attending one fair and a session or two with representatives at school. But don't push it — this might be way too early!
If your child seems okay with this, encourage the creation/modification of a list of colleges that are possible destinations.
Mark the date for the PSAT/NMSQT in big red letters on the wall calendar! Your child should be doing a little prep work for this test, but don't forget to maintain open dialogue on how classes and activities are going. Remember: this is a practice run.
Make plans for improvement
PSAT/NMSQT scores should be back by now and between you, your child, and the high school counselor, strategies for improving weak areas should be developed, if necessary.
Just as you've been doing all along, make sure that your child's classes seem to be an appropriate fit. If grades are slipping, perhaps the course levels are too high or study habits are poor.
Take a look at extracurricular activities as well, not just from the standpoint of whether or not they're going well, but if they are having a negative impact on your child's studies and need to be cut back.
Consider additional testing
You and your child (and perhaps the school counselor) should discuss SAT Subject Tests and APs, although many students wait until their junior year. May and June are the usual test times and the most common test taken by sophomores is biology, as it is often a completed subject by this time.
Break out the sunscreen
Summer is coming up again, and your child should be considering what options are best for his summer plans. Vacations are nice, but so is earning money or enhancing one's transcript with a summer camp or program!
Check the schedule
If your child needs to, he or she should register for June SAT Subject Tests now.
Plan for the coming school year
Testing aside, gently oversee registration for next fall's classes and activities. Urge your child to select (or continue) the most challenging classes possible and to participate in at least one community service activity. Finalize any summer plans, and, just as you did last year, devise a summer reading list together that will help the transition into junior year.
Make the break a productive one
Your child should have a job or be participating in constructive activities throughout the summer. Summer study, jobs, and volunteer work always rate high with admission officials. If your child has a career goal in mind, see if you can help arrange a day where he or she can "shadow" someone who works in that field.
Do some early research
The Web provides good college entrance information, as well as online applications to many institutions. Summer is a great time for you and your child to check out some of the sites and bookmark your favorites.
See all of Peterson's College Planning Timelines.