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brainGenerally speaking, the single biggest cause of teens’ underachieving at high school is their inability to think long term.

And by long term, we mean life after high school.

The brain’s frontal lobe is an important region – it controls decision making, problem solving, purposeful behaviours, and emotions.

Yet it doesn’t fully developed until we reach our early to mid twenties.

This is why, even though your teen feels all grown up, their ability to plan ahead, think long-term, and consider consequences is still a bit dodgy.

It’s then a cruel irony that high school is arguably the most important time for them to think about the long term, and the effect their high school grades will have on their future.

Unfortunately their most important priority is what social event to attend in the weekend.

The worst thing is that teens often don’t realise how important it is to get good grades at high school until it’s too late. This is especially true for teen’s that weren’t particularly ‘academic’ at school.

They spent their entire time at high school longing for the day in would end, only to realise very soon after that life without good grades is not a whole lot of fun…

Here’s a real-life example

Yesterday my (Clare) mum told me about the dilemma her hairdresser’s son is in. I couldn’t believe just how well this story illustrated this very point!

Sam is 18 and has been out of school for one year.

He never really studied at school – never bothered to put in any effort. Snowboarding and BMX-ing was way more fun.

He either didn’t sit or didn’t pass his final high school exams, and has been working for a temporary labour hire company for the last six months or so.

Sam has just realized that digging holes and helping with road works isn’t actually all that fun or satisfying.

Or well paid.

He announced to his mother the other day that he’d like to be an architect. Probably because the one subject he enjoyed at high school was graphic design.

What he hasn’t realized (but is definitely about to) is that architecture is a competitive course to get into at university. It’s restricted entry (at least in New Zealand), and you can guarantee that almost every successful applicant passed their last year of high school with really good grades.

At this stage, Sam probably has more chance of sprouting wings are flying to the top of a building that he does of designing one.

Now we’re not saying that Sam now has no hope in this world and should just accept his fate as a cleaner at McDonalds. But if he is determined to be more than this, he’s made life pretty hard for himself by not getting good grades at high school.

If only Sam had had the foresight to realize that even though school isn’t the funnest thing in the world, it’s soooo important to try your best at it while you have the chance.

We don’t want the same for your teen

If you’re afraid that your teen might end up in Sam’s position in a few years time unless their attitude towards school changes, you can start getting them on the right track today.

Tell them Sam’s story.

Your teen may not think that doing well at school is important right now, but hopefully with your help and support they’ll realise how crucial it is to do well at school.

Even if your teen has no desire to go to College/University at the moment, it really doesn’t matter. Sam’s story is a classic example of how so many teen’s don’t know what they want to do until they finish school. (This is something we cover in our Straight A’s email course!)

Your teen needs to give school their best shot in order to keep their options open. This is especially important if they don’t know what tickles their fancy yet.

Because who knows what they might decide they’re interested in later on.

Just think of Sam.

Image Credit: Double–M on Flickr



  1. […] Slipping grades can often be a sign that your child is having other issues. While one failed class is not a big deal, if your child is consistently bringing home bad grades in every subject, there could be underlying problems at school or with friends that you don’t know about. Remember to never accuse your teen of anything. Try to form a relationship with them through their teen years and be able to openly communicate with them about the problems, what could happen if you don’t get them taken care of and then maybe brainstorm some proactive ideas together. […]

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