Middle School to High School Transition-Part 1

As a high school administrator, I would hear parents say to me every week, “I don’t understand what is going on; they did so well in middle school.”  Grades slip, sometimes they tend to get into trouble that before, they were never even around, and I can see why parents wonder what is going on.  So what has happened?  Let’s unravel it in a short time here.

One of the biggest mysteries is when the middle school student has solid grades, maybe even becomes a member of the National Junior Honor Society, and gets to high school. It seems like they are a different person.  There can be many explanations, more than we have time to address here.  But one of the most common ones is that the student just wasn’t prepared for high school.  So how can we help students get ready for more demanding academic standards, increased competition, and increased distractions?  Let’s take a look at these three.

Tougher Academic Standards – In middle school, students often get good grades more easily earned.  It’s not that the material is more effortless, students engage differently, and their understanding of the content flows for them more easily.  As parents, we can help this transition by talking with students about keeping going when they experience frustration, defeat, or disappointment.  Let’s say they take a test, and the student doesn’t do as well on it as they thought they would do.  How do they handle that personally?  By sitting down with them as parents and examining how they study, reviewing the material from day to day will help.

As the classwork gets more complex or that they need a different way to study.  I’ve often seen that students “get” the material without much effort in middle school, and then when they get to high school, those same approaches that have worked for them in the past no longer work.  Students don’t see this as something that needs revision, and when they face some difficulties or opposition, they give up or just keep doing the same and accept the lower results.

By staying on top of day-to-day assignments, looking at the students’ work, the teachers’ corrections, and connecting with how they are studying, we can assist students in identifying the changes needed more quickly before it is too late.   I often spoke with parents after the fact, after a quarter of school was done or even later, and they were frustrated.  If students don’t have to study much in middle school, they will likely need to study more and even learn to study in high school.  Addressing the skills the child needs before the transition will significantly benefit.

In Part 2 of this Middle School to High School Transition, we will look at how to handle the increased competition in high school.  Part 2 is here, Middle School to High School Transition-Part 2 – Dr. Rich Patterson (

Part 3 of this Middle School to High School Transition is here, Middle School to High School Transition-Part 3 – Dr. Rich Patterson (

Simply Soft Skills has an article here for 3 Tips for a Smooth Transition from Middle School to High School, 3 Tips for a Smooth Transition from Middle School to High School – Simply Soft Skills


Yours for Better Parenting,