With your child halfway through his sophomore year, this is an excellent time to sit down together and talk about his grades.

As you know, a student’s grade point average (GPA) is just one of the factors colleges consider during the admissions process. Colleges also look at the rigor of a student’s course load, standardized test scores (the SAT or ACT), activities in and out of school, teacher and counselor recommendations, and admission essays. The influence of these factors on admissions decisions varies, depending on the college.

While some colleges don’t consider freshman year grades, sophomore year grades are a different story. “With every year of high school, grades become more important,” says Bay Area-based college counselor Sue Chapman. “Sophomore grades count more than freshman grades do. Junior year grades are very visible and very critical.”

If your child’s grades are better than they were freshman year, ask him what he did differently? Did he adopt better study habits? Did he spend more time on homework and test prep? Identifying strategies that work will help him later in high school and in college as his classes become more challenging.

If your child’s report card doesn’t reflect your child’s best effort, try to figure out why. What does your child think went wrong? Keep your tone calm and genuinely curious (anger will only shut your child down).

Here are some questions to consider:

  • Did he work as hard as he could have?
  • Did he let his social life or activities get in the way of his school work?
  • What are his strongest subjects? Can he ask the teacher for the chance to boost his grades through an extra credit project?
  • Did he put in sufficient study time before tests?
  • Is there any way he could work smarter not harder?

Try to help your teen identify ways he could improve his study habits next semester. Encourage him to talk to his teachers and ask them for advice about how to improve.

If your child makes it clear that he doesn’t understand the material in some or all of his classes, he likely needs additional help. Reach out to his teachers or counselors and ask about tutoring and other resources. Many students need extra support in writing, mastering new math concepts, or learning a foreign language. A weekly session with a tutor — whether it’s a local college student, a professional service, or an in-school program — can make a tremendous difference.

If your child’s grades aren’t stellar, be sure he understands that it’s not too late to turn things around. According to Sue Chapman, colleges are impressed when they see that a student has worked to boost his grades. “An improving grade trend is always seen as a positive thing,” she says.

It’s not too late — but the time to start is now.