Transitioning From Online Middle School To High School

Movies, TV Shows, YouTube channels, and book series have all been dedicated to the high school experience. Sure they’re fun to watch or read, but most of them don’t show the real experience. The drama of those high school shows or books are fun, but they don’t really prepare you for the parts of high school outside of the social aspects. Sure, navigating the social side of your transition is important, but what about academics? 

At Excel High School, we’ve had a lot of experience helping our students move from middle to high school, and we have a few tips for online middle school students who are ready for their next stage.  Here are three steps you can take to make sure you start out on the right foot:

  • Get comfortable with self-guided learning.
  • Learn early to take ownership of your education and responsibilities.
  • Know how and when to ask for help.

With these helpful skills under your belt, you’ll be navigating either your digital classroom or the hallways of your school in no time.

Get Comfortable With Self-Guided Learning

If you ask a senior for advice, they’ll unanimously tell you to start out strong. You will definitely find classes that challenge you during your academic career, so start out freshman year knowing that it’s easier to keep your grades steady than to bring them up once they drop. That means that if you focus on socializing more than academics in ninth grade, you will probably regret it later on. Keep your eye on the prize from day one. Too many students start high school with the mindset that they can worry about their academics later on in junior and senior years; and too many students regret that decision.

How do you make sure you’re ready for academics from the start?  You can set yourself up for a lot of success by taking notes. Every student takes notes differently, and there are plenty of different styles that you can check out. From reading the text ahead of time and making an outline you can follow and add to during class to taking notes in class and adding to them later, you can decide what kind of notes you want to take. You can doodle, create a web, or use a t-chart for organization of key terms.

When you’re serious about maintaining your academics and setting yourself up for a successful high school career, you want to set up a good study plan for outside of class. Start out by evaluating your free time and determining what your study schedule will look like? How often will you review your notes? When will you organize your notebooks to keep them cleaned up and easy to use? Will you set dedicated study time for two, three, or four times a week? These are important details you need to determine before you become too busy so that they’re a natural part of your routine.

Take Ownership

In high school, the records are yours. It can be something you are proud of, or it can be something you rebel against. You are mighty though, and high school is going to be a wonderful experience for you. 

Your GPA is yours, too. Grade Point Average is earned by calculating the average of each of your final course grades. A four-point scale is used, and each letter grade is assigned a numerical value.  

  • A = 4 points
  • B = 3 points
  • C = 2 points
  • D = 1 point
  • F = 0 points

As you can imagine, if you earn a few 1s or 0s, that drops the values of your As because of the way averages work. If you earn three A grades and three Ds, that’s 12 points divided by 6 classes, and that’s a C average even if you excelled in half of your classes. If you earned one A grade, two Bs, one C, one D, and one F, that’s a 1.7 GPA, somewhere between a C and a D. Do you see how tricky that can get? You can feel really good about having “mostly good” grades, but in the end the average is lower than you expect. The reason you need to know how GPA works is that no one else is responsible for your work other than you. 

Remember also that you will experience many different styles of instruction; it will be up to you to adapt your studying even if their teaching style doesn’t match your learning style. Delve into the content and make it your own. If you’ve set up study times, this is a great way to spend that time. Turn the course content into something you can relate to through your notes.

Check your grades often. By keeping track of your progress, you won’t be faced with any surprises. However, a word of caution: upper classmen would also advise you not to get into the “comfortable zone.” That’s when students get really excited about their early grades and think to themselves, “I’m doing well. I’m just going to skip studying for this one exam, skip this week’s homework, stop paying attention as well for just a few days.” Why is this tricky? It’s like a slippery slope. It sounds like a good idea at the time, but it starts to feel really comfortable and then you realize that you’re sliding down that slope and not quite sure how to stop the slide or climb back up. Be kind to yourself and avoid the pitfalls that others warn you against. You’re worth the efforts you make for yourself.

Your next important step is to learn to read instructions carefully, and if you don’t understand something, ask for help. Your teachers are there to help you, and everyone in your school wants to see students succeed. Reach out to your teachers, and they will be happy to clarify anything that you don’t understand. If you’re struggling generally and are a student at Excel, you can reach out to you Academic Success Coach to get some tips for successful course progress.

Finally, part of taking responsibility for your own learning is to use a digital or paper planner and record deadlines and regular study times. Your phone is a great tool for this, and even if you prefer a paper planner, you can design and create one on your computer or download on online. Hold yourself to the high standard you and your future deserve.  You are worth the time and patience it takes to face high school boldly.

Ask For Help

Your first step is to make sure you set up an appropriate email address to use to contact your teachers. If it’s available, create an email address specifically for more professional communication that includes your name or some version of it. Your gamer tag is fun for gaming, and the nickname your friends gave you in elementary school are fine for that, but if you want to keep a long-term email address, grab it right away when you are starting high school.

Not only do you want to have a way to contact your instructors, but you also will want to know how to address your needs in an appropriate way. When asking for help, avoid blaming and shifting responsibility. It’s better to ask for guidance with an open mind. Don’t be afraid of constructive criticism and guidance about what you need to do in order to improve.

Before you start classes, you will want to know who can find for tutoring and how to know when you need a tutor.  If you’re monitoring your grades and spending time in review, you’ll know when you’re struggling, but a lot of freshmen don’t reach out then because they’re either scared of what other people will think, they think they can figure it out themselves, or they just don’t want to bother anyone with their problems. Why? You’re worth asking for help when you need it! If you need an outside tutor, you can even get help through Train the Brain, a 100% online tutoring platform that allows you to schedule and get tutoring based on your schedule and completely online. Full time students at Excel High School have access to Train the Brain included in their tuition. If you’re an EHS student, it’s important to use that unlimited access to a tutor.

High school can be a wonderful experience for you. You get to explore new topics and interests, but most importantly, you get to start shaping your own big future. Be sure to take full advantage of this amazing opportunity to challenge yourself and grow.

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