How to Prepare Students for the Transition to High School – The TPT Blog

As the end of the school year approaches, many middle school students are preparing for a really big change in their lives: the transition to high school. Because it’s one of the more significant milestones in their academic journey, students may be feeling a mixture of excitement and apprehension as they prepare to make the move to high school. 

If you’re an educator, counselor, or parent, there are plenty of ways that you can support students during this period. Keep reading for strategies and resources that will help prepare rising freshmen for high school, and equip them with the confidence and skills needed to thrive.

What to know about the transition from middle school to high school

High school is a time of learning, growth, and exploration for students, where they will likely be faced with a range of new challenges, opportunities, and changes. These include, but are not limited to:

  • managing a heavier course load and higher expectations
  • handling more independence and autonomy
  • exploring new interests and extracurricular activities
  • planning for and making important decisions for their future
  • learning how to advocate for themselves 

How to prepare students for high school

Here are some strategies to help prepare middle school students for the transition to high school.

Check in on how students are feeling

Naturally, students will be feeling a wide range of emotions as they take this next step. You can provide emotional support during this time by encouraging open communication around their feelings, and by offering guidance and reassurance. Consider using open-ended discussion or writing prompts such as:

  • I’m excited about…
  • I’m wondering about…
  • I’m worried about…
  • I’d like to ask about…

Discuss the differences between middle and high school

One of the best ways to prepare students for high school is to address the key changes students can expect — and help them learn strategies for dealing with them. What methods or tools will they use to manage the new experiences, stresses, and challenges they are likely to face?

For example, the course load in high school generally tends to be heavier and more demanding than middle school. You can make this transition easier by helping them build time management skills by using time-tracking exercises, teaching a dedicated lesson on the subject, or incorporating time management tools into projects.

Additionally, high schoolers will often have greater autonomy over certain aspects of their academic life, including class schedules and extracurricular activities. With this increased independence, students will need to learn how to speak up and advocate for themselves when they need help. Encourage students to reflect on their strengths, weaknesses, learning styles, and preferences. With a good foundational understanding of themselves and their needs, students can better communicate those things to their teachers, counselors, and other school staff.

Empower students with knowledge to make smart decisions.

High school is the time when students begin to think seriously about their futures — and to lay the foundations for life beyond the classroom. It’s also the time when the decisions they make — from the classes they take to the grades they get to the extracurricular activities they participate in — carry more weight. 

Ask students goal-setting questions to encourage reflection around their future plans. Which classes and how many credits do they need to take to graduate? What courses and extracurriculars should they consider, and why?

Discuss how to cope with stress.

There’s no doubt that high school can be full of different pressures, and that these pressures can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety for students. Talk to students about the different techniques they can use to manage and cope with stress from school, such as:

  • Establishing a route
  • Writing in a journal
  • Meditating and exercising
  • Reaching out to friends or trusted adults (like a school counselor)
  • Learning to recognize and prepare for stressful periods

Activities to prepare students for high school

These lessons are perfect for giving students background knowledge about high school life, and preparing them for the next step.

Transition to High School Escape Activity Game to Prepare for HS by Career and Employment Prep

Transition to High School Game Show by Carol Miller – Counseling Essentials

Ninth Grade Transition to High School Presentation by Counselor Clique

Middle School College Readiness – Group Counseling Classroom Lessons Activities by the Fancy Counselor

Transition Middle to High School SEL LESSON 5 Videos Self-talk Study Skills by Counselor Bev

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