Advice & Features Articles

Middle to High School


“I’m in with the in crowd, I go where the in crowd goes”

“The ‘In’ Crowd,” Dobie Gray; lyrics by Billy Page

By Karyn Brodsky

The transition from middle school to high school can be emotional, as well as academically difficult, as students who are now striving to juggle classes and more homework are also trying to figure out where and how they fit in and are feeling the need to be “cool.” Peer pressure and being accepted are top of mind as preteens morph into teens. They need to find a healthy balance; fitting in with the “in” crowd can take time and attention away from focusing on their studies. Help with finding this balance can usually be found by confiding in a teacher or school counselor, in addition to family support.

“We always have a meeting to discuss how parents should prepare their teens for the move from middle school to high school,” says Paula Nickel, Director of Guidance Counseling at John Paul II High School in Plano. “The biggest challenge facing students is the increase in academic rigor: they need to learn to be prepared for class with all the necessary materials, to avoid procrastination and to learn time management and organization.”

The school advises parents to be in regular contact with their teen’s teachers and counselor to stay aware of student progress or any issues, which might arise. “Don’t be surprised if a student drops a letter grade at the beginning of high school, as the move from middle school is a major transition,” says Nickel. “If your teen was an A student in middle school, don’t be alarmed if he or she drops to a B+ or B; it just means they are trying to adapt to a more rigorous schedule and additional work that’s required.” However, adds Nickel, it is important that teens learn to adjust quickly and raise their grades, as high school is when they are building their transcripts in preparation for college.

Nickel says that John Paul II holds an orientation specifically for the students before the school year starts, to help prepare them and inform them of what is expected. Then, each student is enrolled in a one-semester seminar where topics such as organization, setting priorities, time management, bullying, self-advocacy and community involvement are discussed.

According to an article in US News & World Report, three helpful tips can make the transition easier and pave a successful high school path: do a walk-through of the school to alleviate first-day jitters, advocate extracurricular involvement to help your teen make new friends, relieve stress and feel engaged, and as a parent, be accessible and listen to your student and show support and positive encouragement.


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