Easing the Transition to High School

Starting high school is a major rite of passage for adolescents. Teens entering high school are both excited and concerned about this change. They look forward to more freedom, more choices, the opportunity to participate in more extracurricular activities, and the opportunity to develop friendships. However, they also admit to being nervous about older students teasing them; getting lost in their larger, unfamiliar school; and low grades. They are concerned that high school teachers will be stricter and that teachers will give them much more and much harder work than they had in middle school.

The transition into high school is a critical juncture for students. The cost of failing to make this transition successfully is high. Unsuccessful high school transitions contribute to high dropout rates, low ontime graduation rates, and academic problems. Students who have difficulty transitioning to high school experience a decrease in achievement, find it more difficult to motivate themselves, tend to withdraw, and exhibit a significant increase in behavior problems.

Students who succeed in making the move to high school have parents who stay involved in their lives. They are also good self-managers; they know how to respond to the new social demands and temptations; and they get plugged in to the clubs and organizations both on campus and off.

Parents Can Help

Parents can play an important role in helping their children during the transition from middle school to high school.

When parents are involved in their child's high school experiences, students have higher achievement, are better adjusted, and are less likely to drop out of school. Remember that the transition into high school is the toughest one for many students. Don't make the mistake of thinking that your "independent" high school student doesn't need your help. In a survey conducted by Public Agenda, most parents reported believing that it is natural for parents to be less involved when their children reached high school. However, almost all teens surveyed said that the most important thing parents can do is stay involved in their lives and school activities.

What Parents Can Do

  • You and your child can visit the new high school before the school year begins. This can help ease some of the anxiety about going to an unfamiliar school.
  • Help your teen develop a plan for selecting courses. Review those selections to be sure he or she is on track to meet academic goals.
  • Once school starts, ask your teen how things are going at school. Show sincere interest and let him or her know that you are interested in helping with any problems.
  • Set a regular time each day for homework and studying. During this time, distractions such as phone calls, television, or visitors should not be allowed.
  • Monitor homework to ensure it is being completed and turned in. Many schools post homework assignments daily on a website that parents can view.
  • Communicate with teachers each semester.

When you set reasonable expectations, regularly ask your child how things are going, monitor schoolwork, and check in with teachers, you boost your child's chances of success. Students whose parents intervene positively are more likely to have a smooth transition from middle school to high school.


Research has shown that students who have strong self-management skills are happier and do better in school. They know how to balance their academic and social activities and to achieve success in school. High school students surveyed identified time management, staying on task, being organized, and having good study skills as essential elements for success.

Students need to know how to manage time effectively. Managing time is one of the most important and useful skills to help your teenager learn. A time schedule helps your student worry less about deadlines and see the big picture in terms of goals and commitments. Teens can learn to make weekly and daily schedules. Dividing the semester into weekly and daily schedules breaks it into manageable sections, which helps your student track assignments, deadlines and activities.

We all have trouble focusing from time to time, and teens are no exception. Like everyone else, in order to complete work, fulfill obligations, and do well in school, students need to focus. From the Internet to movies, teens are bombarded with distractions. The first thing any student needs to do to succeed is to limit those distractions. Students need a regular time and place for homework.

Nearby televisions should be off, and time spent on the internet or video games should be limited.

Good organization makes studying easier by cutting down on wasted time. Notebooks make learning materials easy to find. Students should write down assignments for all classes in one designated place. Include due dates and important information for each one. Folders and binders with dividers are great to organize notes and assignments. Each class should have its own section, and there should be a separate place for completed assignments that need to be turned in.

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