From One Stage to the Next: Part 2: Preparing Middle School Students for High School

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In our last post, we discussed the importance of preparation in the transition from elementary school to middle school. Preparing middle school students for high school is just as vital to their upper level and overall academic success. Once again, students are moving into a new realm of challenges and possibilities, and how they make this transition can make the difference between success and struggle in high school. In order to be successful, students transitioning from middle to high school need to prepare themselves for the new social and academic atmospheres, in addition to preparing for the logistical challenges.

Preparing Students for High School Academics

To achieve success in high school, students need to be reading at grade level, be capable of performing basic math skills, and be capable of writing legibly. They should be able to think critically about various types of information, as well[1]. To ensure that a child has an easier transition into high school, teachers and parents should encourage students to take courses that are appropriately challenging and that interest them[2].

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[3].

By planning out an academic career before even entering high school, students can keep themselves on track to graduate on time, and they can learn to balance their schedules. This plan does not have to be set in stone, as students may learn that they enjoy different subjects and want to explore them further in electives or extra courses, but it will give them a guideline for success in high school.

Middle school teachers can 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[4]. Teaching students strong note-taking skills will also help them better prepare for their high school classes.

Preparing Students for High School Social Environments

The social environment of high school can be vastly different from that of middle school. During this time, students are often struggling with personal identity while trying to fit into some sort of social group[5]. In the meantime, they are facing more and different kinds of peer pressure and anxieties than before[6]. As a result, the transition from middle to high school is often fraught with confusion, hormones, and stress; but it is possible to help students prepare for this change.

Administrators from both high schools and middle schools should consider arranging an extracurricular “fair”[7]. At this event, high school coaches, club sponsors, and similar extracurricular leaders can set up booths and speak with students. This type of environment allows incoming students to learn about the different extracurricular activities available to them. It also offers them the chance to establish social groups prior to the beginning of their freshman year, making the transition from middle to high school easier.

How Mentoring Programs Can Help Students Transition to High School

An excellent way to prepare students for high school’s social and academic landscape is to create a mentoring program.[8] By having high school students mentor middle school students, the latter has the opportunity to learn more about the high school social structure and the pressures they may face. High school students can impart their experiences regarding these pressures, giving their younger counterparts advice about dealing with anxieties and peer pressure. In addition, mentoring programs offer middle school students a high school perspective on homework, tests, and courses, providing them with improved tools with which they can approach high school academics.

Helping Students Make a Successful Transition to High School

Surveying middle school students to assess what they are concerned about, their emotional maturity, how they perceive high school, and what social skills they already possess can help schools create an effective middle school to high school transition program. In addition, surveying freshman in high school can help schools judge the effectiveness of their programs to improve them for the next group of students to make the transition to high school.

With these tips in mind, schools, parents, and teachers can help middle school students transition smoothly and help set them up for success in high school.


[1] Morin, Amanda. “Academic Skills Your Child Needs for High School.” Understood.org. Retrieved from https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/signs-symptoms/academic-readiness/academic-skills-your-child-needs-for-high-school on May 9, 2016.

[2] “Is Your Child Ready for High School?” America’s Career Resource Network. Retrieved from http://acrn.ovae.org/parents/documents/readyhs.pdf on May 9, 2016.

[3] “Is Your Child Ready for High School?” America’s Career Resource Network. Retrieved from http://acrn.ovae.org/parents/documents/readyhs.pdf on May 9, 2016.

[4] Ellerbrock, Cheryl R. “Help Students Transition to High School Smoothly.” Association for Middle Level Education. Retrieved from https://www.amle.org/BrowsebyTopic/WhatsNew/WNDet/TabId/270/ArtMID/888/ArticleID/117/Help-Students-Transition-to-High-School-Smoothly.aspx on May 9, 2016.

[5] “Is Your Child Ready for High School?” America’s Career Resource Network. Retrieved from http://acrn.ovae.org/parents/documents/readyhs.pdf on May 9, 2016.

[6] Winters, Leigha. “Transition to High School.” Palo Alto Medical Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.pamf.org/teen/life/school/highschool.html on May 9, 2016.

[7] Ellerbrock, Cheryl R. “Help Students Transition to High School Smoothly.” Association for Middle Level Education. Retrieved from https://www.amle.org/BrowsebyTopic/WhatsNew/WNDet/TabId/270/ArtMID/888/ArticleID/117/Help-Students-Transition-to-High-School-Smoothly.aspx on May 9, 2016.

[8] Ellerbrock, Cheryl R. “Help Students Transition to High School Smoothly.” Association for Middle Level Education. Retrieved from https://www.amle.org/BrowsebyTopic/WhatsNew/WNDet/TabId/270/ArtMID/888/ArticleID/117/Help-Students-Transition-to-High-School-Smoothly.aspx on May 9, 2016.

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