The school year is winding down and, in many parts of the country, almost over.

No matter what grades your children are in, now is a great time to ask for an appointment with their guidance counselors, and to make sure that you understand your academic options for next school year.

If you are the parent of current college students, this means that you should ask your children if they are set for classes for the fall semester, and to suggest that they take it upon themselves to get registered, make sure their place to live is all set and to close the loop on any other administrivia, such as unpaid parking tickets, before they pack up to come home or go on an internship for the summer. It is important to be helpful from afar, but to let go too, understanding such a stance may mean some deadlines are missed, or some important paperwork goes unfinished.

If you are the parent of a student who is about to enter college, you are probably finding the end of senior year to be a very busy time, as you not only plan for graduation, but line up your college finances, and develop your to-do list of all the things that must be done, and items that must be bought, before your son or daughter goes off to school in the fall. According to the National Retail Federation, the average family of a rising college freshman spends more than $2000 on back-to-school stuff, and that is in addition to tuition and room and board. Get your checkbook ready (and don’t forget to take advantage of savings offered through your membership!)

If your children are younger, and many of you are parents of 7th-grade through 11th-grade students, you may be lulled into a false sense of security, and asking your spouse or friends “what is all this getting ready for college fuss about?” Don’t kid yourself. Now is the time to work on planning for the next school year, looking at options for college (even though it may be a few years off), and signing up for summer camps or learning enrichment programs that can help your child develop and give you a chance to get some work done.

And now is the time to talk to your child’s guidance counselor.

If you know who your child’s guidance counselor is, consider yourself fortunate. And if your counselor knows who your child is, not just his or her name but what makes him or her tick, consider yourself very lucky. With a national guidance counselor to student ratio of 1 to 491, it is rare for guidance counselors to have the luxury of being able to reach out to you or your child and to help you develop an academic game plan. With that many students to serve, many guidance counselors are simply trying to keep their heads above water.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease phrase has become a standard because it has such a strong degree of truth to it. You have to be the squeaky wheel with your child’s guidance counselor. You have to call or e-mail to schedule a meeting now, before the school year ends, and to ask the important questions about your child’s academic course of study for the next year.

You have probably tended to do this for natural transition years, such as the start of kindergarten, the move to junior high and the beginning of high school. But you really should have this academic conversation leading into every school year and, if you have the talk now, before the current school year ends, then you may be able to schedule summer school classes, tutoring or other formal and informal summer learning activity that can better position your child in the right classes during the next academic year and, just as important, position him or her to succeed in those classes.

So consider every year an important transition, and the chance for your child to begin anew with a better attitude about school and a clearer game plan for what he or she is trying to accomplish. The place to begin that transition is in your child’s guidance counselor’s office and the time to do it is now. Best of luck in making the remainder of this academic year as productive as possible for you and your children.