No matter how you feel about entering high school—nostalgic or nervous—the process always goes smoother if students are prepared. If you’re a middle schooler counting down the days until you move into your high school years or an incoming freshman confused about what you ought to be doing, these tips will help you start on the right foot. Focus on establishing a few key strategies to keep you on track for success when the next school year comes around!
What can I expect in high school?
Frankly, expect the unexpected—this time in a young person’s life is about exploration and learning from mistakes. Nonetheless, you’ll want to transition as smoothly as possible and set the tone for your high school career. So, what should incoming 9th graders expect?
“The transition to high school is a vulnerable time. As students navigate a heavier workload and greater independence, they struggle to make the small decisions needed to stay on track and to know when and how to ask for help. For many, it is a defining moment in establishing an academic identity. Even students who were high performers in middle school are at risk of adjusting their self-perception when they stumble.”– AMLE, Scanfeld, et al.
Some of the main differences you’ll encounter between middle school and high school include:
- Increase in academic rigor
- Higher expectations for good behavior
- Expansion of your freedom
- Increase in personal responsibilities
- Social development outside the classroom
- More activities to manage
…and plenty of other variables. There are upsides and downsides to your increased responsibilities and freedoms, but not to worry—we’re here to help you make the most of it!
Find your support
First things first, it’s important to know how to rest and recover. Though there will be endless extracurricular activities and a fair amount of homework, remember that you have to take care of yourself to keep going.
Educational experts in Texas say it well: “Learn to breathe—really. Deep breaths can help lower your stress. Know the name of at least one adult at high school that you can ask for help.” Additionally, if possible, take advantage of any summer or extracurricular activities that happen on your high school campus, so you can see the layout and potentially meet a few teachers to help make the transition a little less scary.
But don’t stop there: “Ask for help! Find out what tutoring or extra help is offered for academics.” You never know until you ask. There’s no shame in utilizing support resources designed to help you succeed; that’s just smart business.
Top 3 ways to prepare for high school
1. Strengthen Critical-Thinking Skills
“Help students prepare for high school by giving examples of actual high school work and textbooks, offering them an opportunity to see first-hand what will be expected of them academically.”– AMLE, Ellerbrock.
Do your best to ensure that the classes your student is taking are both reasonably challenging and interesting enough to keep them engaged. Academic rigor is a factor that most colleges and universities consider when comparing student applicants. One way to do this is exposure to the high school curriculum.
In addition, note-taking and organizational skills are vital. You can practice effective note-taking in class starting now! The easier these habits become over time, the better equipped you are for difficult material when you come to it.
2. Create an Academic Four-Year Plan
“Ideally, advisors and counselors should sit down with students and discuss a plan for their high school academics. Most high schools require students to take a specific series of core classes and secondary subjects, including math, English, science, history, electives, and a foreign language.”— America’s Career Resource Network (ACRN).
Aside from these core classes, middle schoolers can read up on high school credits, and how many credits are needed to graduate. There are many upsides to creating a four-year plan like this one (even if it’s not set in stone), including:
- Managing a personal schedule
- Keeping on track to graduate
- Longterm goal-setting, and confidence in achievements
Perhaps most of all, doing so also helps establish a guideline for success in high school. Experts also recommend keeping an agenda book to actively track your own due dates and commitments as students will rely on these skills later in college and beyond.
3. Create an “In Case of Emergency” Plan
Just like we practice fire drills, keep a fire extinguisher around, and turn off the stove before leaving the house… having an emergency action plan for when school gets tough is critical to surviving high school. Proactively preparing is a great first step.
To get your thoughts flowing, have your student answer the following questions:
- What kind of environment do I need to complete my work effectively?
- How will I stay organized for assignments with less teacher monitoring?
- In what way will I use free periods?
- How will I balance work and social time?
- Can I make sure I get back to school on time when I leave campus?
- How will I manage a challenge in an independent environment?
- What is going to make it hard to succeed? How will I overcome these challenges?
Keep track of the answers somehow and return to these questions in the future to check your progress! It may even help save a semester.
You can do this!
Most of all, to make the most of your high school years, keep an open mind. While it may seem overwhelming at first, it’s an amazing opportunity to stretch outside your comfort zone. Students will find increased freedoms and responsibilities in turn. With the proper guidance and preparation, you can confidently know that you’ve done all you can.
Empowerly is here to provide students with this kind of intellectual support and guidance throughout their high school careers. If you’d like to work with a college counselor to help you maximize your experiences in the college application process, book an introductory call at no cost with an Empowerly team member to learn how we support students like you.