How to Prepare for High School Academics

Is Your Middle Schooler Ready for High School Classes?

Strengthen Your Student’s Academic Foundation During Middle School 

Mother Helping Son With Homework At Home

You’ve probably heard that your student’s academic performance in 9th grade is a strong indicator of how they will do in subsequent grades. You may have heard teachers, counselors, or other parents talk about how to prepare for high school academics. But what does that actually mean? In this article, I’ll break it down for you.

The transition from middle school to high school is a big one. When your student enters 9th grade, grades start to matter more, social dynamics among classmates shift, and your student has to familiarize with a new school, all while preparing for college. There’s a lot for your son or daughter to experience and a lot for you to try to figure out as a parent!  

In this article, I walk you through how to prepare your student for high school by strengthening their academic foundation in middle school. I’ll help you: 

  • understand the three essential skills middle schoolers should work on;
  • identify key skills  learned before high school by subject area;
  • assess your student’s skills in math, reading, and writing; and
  • close your student’s skill gaps and prepare for high school entrance exams. 

What is a Strong Academic Foundation? 

One of the essential goals of your student’s middle school career should be to create a strong academic foundation. “Creating a strong foundation” is different than merely getting good grades. As so many students know, it’s quite possible to get an A in a course without feeling like you’ve really learned much (or grown in that area of study in a way that will impact your long-term academic progress).  

But how is a strong academic foundation built during middle school?

A strong academic foundation occurs when your student practices and develops essential learning skills, as well as fundamental skills in math, science, English, and social studies. Success in high school classes are dependent on these skills being in place.

Identify and Pracitce Essential Skills

High school preparation is more than just being good at math, or English, or science, or social studies. It’s also about the overarching skills that are used in all learning activities.

Regardless of your student’s academic and/or career path, your student should begin developing the following three essential skills in middle school to be successful in high school and beyond:  

  1. Learn independently 
  2. Think critically 
  3. Write with clarity 

When you were in school you probably wondered, “what’s the point of learning how to write a thesis statement?”. I bet your son or daughter has wondered that, too. Well, if you can help your student connect an activity in school to one of the three skills, you can help them think of it as important training instead of a chore. Seeing learning as an opportunity will set them up for success in the future.

Essential Skill 1: Learn Independently 

learning to learn independently is an essential skill for success later.Regardless of where life takes your student, there will definitely be times they will need to learn a thing or two on thier own. We might also call this “learning to learn.” I still remember my mother telling me that the purpose of going school is to learn how to learn, not to master all the material immediately.  

Sure, it’s absolutely fine for your student to ask you lots of questions and to seek clarification when they are confused about an idea or assignment. However, it’s equally important that they learn how to seek those answers for themselves.

So how do you get good at this? Practice.  

Next time you feel like your student doesn’t understand something, try encouraging them to patiently read over the material again. Keep a positive attitude: tell them that you know that they are totally capable of finding the answers to their questions since they have all the information in front of him.  

Of course, you will still want your student to ask for help when they need it, but when they figure something out on their own it will give them a contagious boost of confidence.  

Essential Skill 2: Think Critically

No doubt you’re familiar with the mysterious phrase “critical thinking,” but what does it mean? To “think critically” is to carefully evaluate information and make a judgment based on reason and facts, rather than emotion, bias, or any other predisposition. This is easier than it sounds, though it takes practice to make critical thinking a habit. 

This process involves learning to consider alternative perspectives, recognize one’s own biases, develop an eye for important details, and to “think outside of the box” to imagine creative solutions to problems. 

In order to practice active, reflective thought, try to encourage your student to learn critical reading habits. Have your student implement the following approach to reading: pause after each paragraph to assess 1) its main idea and 2) how the paragraph contributes to the overall purpose of that text. This strategy can work for any kind of reading.

Essential Skill 3: Write with Clarity