High School Helpline title

with Cheryl A. Bastian

blue dial telephone
blue dial telephone
High School Helpline title

with Cheryl A. Bastian

We’re tackling some of the most common questions parents ask and sharing simple action steps to make it easy.

My child wants to get into a specific college, but he didn’t finish some courses he needs. What do we do now?


irst, remember that the story hasn’t ended. Moving forward takes courage for both parents and high schoolers. Breaking free from what seems like an end—a dead end or unanticipated roadblock—might be the beginning or the middle to a new destination. Yes, courses might have taken longer to complete. Test scores may be lower than expected. But take heart and breathe. High schoolers yearn for encouragement from people who care about them as they recover from disappointment. They need help to process, evaluate, and regroup.

In the process, a second beginning may blossom or the murky middle become clear, providing the personal growth or continued education needed for future aspirations. In fact, the ending, when it finally does arrive, may be better than anyone could have imagined.

Don’t panic. Stress adds to confusion, clouding the clarity needed to make wise decisions. Before trying to help a frustrated high schooler, take some time to process any personal disappointment from the situation. Once in a calmer place, grab a favorite beverage (and maybe a few chocolates) and sit down with the high schooler to nurture forward motion. Brainstorm. Listen. Amazingly, tough times tend to soften when navigated alongside understanding and empathy, and relationships can be strengthened.


  • Make a list of the high schooler’s character traits for which you are grateful.
  • Discuss the good that occurred over the season, even though the outcome was not as anticipated.

Questions to Process

  • How can I come alongside my high schooler in his or her disappointment or discouragement?
  • What might encourage my high schooler at this time?


“Ponder all possible pathways to the intended end goal. Different doesn’t mean less effective and adjustments can be highly effective.”

father helping daughter unpack belongings from car trunk to her new college dorm

Evaluate. Life is not a straight, unencumbered path—not every obstacle, a setback. Instead, challenges and changes can be windows for potential and provide the momentum needed to process and progress toward next steps. This is true for our high schoolers as well. When there’s a bump in the road, step back and evaluate.


  • Create a list of pros and cons of the past season, as well as for any opportunities which avail themselves.
  • Consider whether a new time management method or change in daily schedule would be helpful.

Questions to Process

  • What did I learn about myself?
  • What was the root cause of not obtaining the goal?
  • What do we understand about how you learn best?
  • What part of this experience could be used in the next season of learning?

Consider possibilities. When minds are made up, it’s hard to fathom other possibilities. However, with an adjusted mindset and the initial plan eliminated, secondary options become obvious and viable. For example, a few years ago a high school junior we know discovered she needed another year of foreign language for admission to her first-choice college. Determined, she registered with an online accredited entity and completed the one-year course in less than six months. She was able to stay on track for the application deadline. Similar possibilities may include:

  • an adjustment in curriculum or delivery method to cover the same material in abbreviated time
  • an untimed placement test option, such as ACCUPLACER, as opposed to a timed college entrance exam
  • an admission to a community college, particularly if industry certifications or a direct connection to a four-year university are offered
  • a well-planned, intentional super senior or gap year
  • an internship or employment in the field of interest

Ponder all possible pathways to the intended end goal. Different doesn’t mean less effective and adjustments can be highly effective.


  • Create a list of courses completed (a transcript in process) to compare what has been finished to what is required.
  • Hire a tutor.
  • Research options at local technical or state colleges.
  • Learn a skill related to an intended career focus: CPR or lifeguard certification, small engine repair, or CNA certification.
  • Gain experience in the field of interest as a volunteer, assistant, or shift manager while completing course work.

Questions to Process

  • What new pathway hasn’t been considered previously?
  • Is there an individual we could speak with who might offer solutions we missed?

Regroup and move forward. Motivated high schoolers tend to independently reconfigure their days—learn to better manage their time based on their aspirations—and discover more efficient learning methods. This motivation makes it possible for homeschoolers to complete two math courses or two science courses in the same year, or to substitute a core course or for an intended elective. With adjustments, learners can proceed toward their new goals whether that be an apprenticeship, a technical certificate, or postponed college admission.


  • Reflect on the process and make three intentional action steps/changes moving forward.
  • Develop a new action plan.

Questions to Process

  • What are the options moving forward?
  • What is the next right step?

Challenges and missteps will occur while on the high school journey. When these trials surface, take courage and step back. Evaluate, process, and regroup alongside your high schooler using the circumstances as a learning opportunity, a chance to take something frustrating and make it fruitful.

Good can come out of any season.
Cheryl Bastian headshot

heryl Bastian has been married to Mike for twenty-eight years and began homeschooling in 1993. A mother of eight children—toddler through adult—Cheryl knows the trials and triumphs of embracing each season of life and is passionate about equipping and inspiring parents who want to nurture a desire for lifelong learning in their children.