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What does "apply yourself" even mean to your teen?

Tell me if this sounds familiar.

Your teen wants to do better in school, and works really hard to do well, only to be left with poor grades that don’t reflect their work input.

So your child asks the teacher what they can do to help improve their grades.

And the teacher answers: “Apply yourself”.

That sounds great. But when your teen goes to take action on this advice, they have NO idea what to do!

What does that even mean?

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Some students may think that “apply yourself” means showing up and being present to class, and paying attention. Which is a reasonable assumption! But this isn’t exactly what the teacher had in mind.

So how is a student supposed to “apply them self” if they don’t even know what that means.

Here’s how to start

Apply yourself doesn’t just mean make sure you show up to class. Instead, it means that your teen needs to be equipped with the tools and the skills necessary to do well in school.

If I was going to apply for a job, I would need the tools and the skills necessary to do well in that job.

Same goes for school!

We need to equip our kids with the TOOLS and the SKILLS to do better in school.

So what does that look like?

Having our kids “apply yourself” starts with making sure they have the right skills for school. These skills are sometimes referred to as study skills, but I prefer to call them academic skills.

If your teen has the right study skills, do they study well before tests? Do they cram the night before a test? Do they do well on tests? How well do they retain information?

If your teen has the right organization skills, do they write down every assignment? Or do they forget assignments? Do they manage big assignments well by starting weeks in advance and not the night before?

If your teen has the right note taking skills, do they take notes fast? Or do they even take notes at all? Do they use their notes to study for the next test?

If your teen has the right time management skills, do they work on assignments in advance? Or wait till the night before it’s due? Do they waste time watching tv, or playing video games, and then start homework at 8pm at night?

These are just a few of the skills that teens need in order to really “apply themselves” well!

Does your teen have the skills to apply themselves?

This is a very serious question! If your teen is struggling in school, then it is likely that they just don’t have the skills needed to learn better, improve grades, and achieve success in school.

So what can we, as parents, do to help our teen do better in school?

First, we can teach out teens these skills. Test your teen to see which academic skills they have and which they still need to learn.

Next, create a plan to start teaching these skills to your teen. Select a few of the most important skills, such as study skills, note taking and organization. Start with these 3!

Give them the tools

If your teen does not have these skills for school, then you can give them the tools they need to learn these skills.

One tool available is to get them a study skills program. I offer a program that teaches students the top 8 skills necessary for academic success. Without these 8 skills, your teen will continue to work hard without a positive result.

To learn more about this program, and how to get access for your teen or preteen, click here.



Hey there! My name is Rachael and I have been a private tutor for over 10 years. I earned my undergraduate degree in 2 and a half years and earned my graduate degree by age 22. I have tutored dozens of high school students, college students, and graduate students. I offer support, encouragement, and resources to help parents learn how to best help their teen or child that is struggling in school.


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