You are no longer a middle schooler (or are the parent of a freshly minted...um...freshman). Congratulations! You should definitely be proud of yourself. It’s taken a while to get here, and now there’s four more years looming large ahead of you. It’s a bigger, broader experience waiting for students in high school, with challenges both old and new. Just switching over from middle school to high school expectations and performance standards can be a big shift.
It’s easy for students to feel overwhelmed by high school, even when they’re going into it with their old middle school classmates (and there’s never any guarantee of that). New teachers, new courses, new testing routines, new classmates and friends, new schedules...it’s a lot to take in.
So how can you help students make the transition into high school as smoothly as possible? Here are five ways to enter high school feeling more equipped and ready to handle the new educational environment:
1. Learn how to manage a locker
Many middle schoolers will be getting a full-sized locker for the first time, and it’s important that they get a little practice with it before the chaos of the classroom overwhelms them. Teach your student how to properly handle the lock mechanism, outfit them with shelving to help keep the space organized, and make sure they know simple rules like “Don’t leave snacks in there for weeks to rot.” Decorating lockers can also be a fun way to help them feel like they own a little private space in high school.
2. Prepare for more independence
Students will want to feel more independent as they get older, so start by helping them practice by giving them more responsibilities and slow degrees of freedom in their schooling and private lives. This will help them feel more capable of making decisions on their own, while still knowing you’re available for help and advice if they really need it.
3. Establish a work/study/life balance
We’ve talked about keeping students in a solid study routine so they continue to build good self-education habits. Also work to keep their tasks and responsibilities in balance, so one area of life isn’t being ignored to its detriment. Block out time for homework, but also for family life, extracurricular activities, and general rest and relaxation (which students can often forget about in high school).
4. Encourage self-advocacy for students
In high school, students who are involved in their own educational efforts will be more likely to get positive responses from teachers and staff who want to support their growth. If a student is struggling but doesn’t feel like they can approach anyone about the issue, or always relies on parents to run interference for them, this can stunt their maturity and keep them from accessing helpful resources that are readily available.
5. Keep your long-term goals in focus
Remember that high school is not the end-all-be-all for students. It’s hardly where their mental, emotional, and physical maturity will be reached. They’ll eventually be heading off to college, trade school, or other higher education pursuits and careers. And their character development is just as critical during this time as their educational performance. Don’t forget to let your new high schoolers know that their emotions and inner lives are just as important to invest in as their outer activities and GPA.
What other steps would you recommend to help students transition into high school? What have you talked to your student about and done to get them ready for this big step up? Let us know!