The transition from middle school to high school is an exciting time for students as they begin to experience an increased level of freedom. High school offers students many opportunities and experiences that they have yet to experience. Eight graders will soon be walking into a new building that offers more of everything! Students will have more teachers and be part of a bigger student population. Their classes may require more homework, tests, and assignments. Teachers and other adults will certainly expect more out of students, so they will need to be able to handle more responsibility. There will be more opportunities for academic growth and extracurricular activities, highlighting the need to develop strong planning and decision-making skills. All of these things can be overwhelming for adolescents, which is why a smooth transition to high school is so important. While this may seem like the right time to inundate students with handouts that have titles like High School Freshman Survival Guide filled with tips for 8th graders; I believe a smooth transition to high school is more likely to be the result of helping students develop important skills necessary for success in high school by allowing them to be a part of the process.

Preparing for High School

There is no doubt that providing advice to 8th graders about academic loads and peer pressure in high school is very important. More importantly, providing an opportunity to be a part of a real-life transition that involves planning, decision-making, and many other skills will allow 8th graders to understand and develop these skills for themselves. These skills along with many others have proven to be a greater predictor of success for students than simply intellectual ability. Allow your child the opportunity to narrow down the right high school with you. Give your child a chance to work with you during the application process and allow a chance for ownership of the process.

How to Ensure a Smooth Transition to High School

Follow the tips below to help your child develop the skills necessary for success in high school as they work toward admission to their first-choice high school.

  • Make a list of schools to narrow down together. Discuss the qualities of a school that would make it a good fit. Share your thoughts on what makes a school good and allow your child to discuss what he or she thinks would make a school a good fit.
  • Plan out times to visit each school on the list. Many high schools offer opportunities for students to visit along with their 8th grade class, or are open to scheduling individual visits during a school day. Spend time together creating a list with the pros and cons of a school after each visit.
  • Understand what the application requirements are for each school, this can vary depending on the school. Some schools require just an application to be submitted, others ask for letters of recommendation from teachers, and some require students to take an entrance exam. Be sure to discuss what kind of preparation your child may need to do when applying to a school. If letters of recommendation are needed, work with your child to plan a time to meet with his or her teacher to ask for this recommendation. If your child will be required to take an entrance exam, then discuss the preparation needed to do well on the exam. Many students take prep classes to prepare or work through a study guide on their own.
  • Mark all important dates on a shared calendar to ensure all deadlines are met. Allow your child to take responsibility on meeting deadlines. Set times to check in with your child as deadlines approach to make sure you all are on the right track.
  • Give your child an opportunity to talk about what may be exciting in high school as well as what may make them anxious. Discussing things that may seem hard or scary beforehand can help ease the stress that may come along with big changes.

Use this Middle School to High School Checklist as a place to keep track of the transition process with your child. Working together will no doubt ensure a smooth process for everyone involved.