Navigating High School Transition

Navigating High School – Middle School\High School Transition: 8th & 9th-12th

The period of transition from middle to high school (8th and 9th-12th) is one of the most challenging times for both students and parents. There are many reasons for this and many students drop out of school during this phase. Several research studies show that the success of students in high school and afterward is directly linked with their smooth transition from 8th and 9th grade to 12th grade.

Factors That Make Transition Challenging

While students have undergone academic transitions previously e.g. from elementary to middle school, several factors make this process much more challenging. These factors include but are not limited to the following:

  • Considerable increase in educational demands and failure
  • Developmental and social transition
  • Organizational and academic structure changes

All in all, the students transitioning from middle to high school have to face the challenge of increased academic expectations and social acceptability.

How Can Parents Assist in the Transition Process?

Parents play a vital role in assisting their children to become productive, confident and successful members of the community. Similarly, they can provide guidance and support to their children in this critical period of transition.

However, parents often fail to understand the science involved at this stage. The prefrontal cortex (PFC) of a teenager’s brain is still developing and going through a critical transition. The PFC is responsible for planning, organization, impulse control and weighing consequences. When combined with excitable hormones, the condition results in an impulsive, risk-taking and peer-pressured individual who needs positive support, attention, and love.

Research studies show that parents who monitor and positively intervene in the educational and social activities of their children are more likely to have a comfortable and smooth transition. Moreover, the constant contact of parents with school results in improved communication between schools and families.

Understand and Listen to Your Child

As a parent, you need to understand that your child is undergoing a stressful period. You need to talk and listen to your child and help him/her realize that this stress is a normal part of the process. You should provide them with reliable support, which they can rely on during this time.

Help Your Child Balance Educational and Social Demands

Your child is facing both educational and social demands in this period and you have to play a part in helping him/her balance them. Get your child involved in extra-curricular activities along with academics to help them relieve social stress.

Balance Academic Expectations

Academics at high school are challenging and you need to realize that. You should balance your expectations from your child. There is a possibility that your child’s grade may drop because of the significant rise in academic demands. So you need to support them instead of making the transition difficult for them.

Generally, with the support of parents, families and teachers, students can smoothly navigate this difficult transition.


  • Erickson, J., Peterson, R. L. & Lembeck, P. (2013, May). Middle to high school transition. Strategy brief. Lincoln, NE: Student Engagement Project, University of Nebraska. http://k12engagement.unl. edu.
  • Cohen, J. S., & Smerdon, B. A. (2009). Tightening the dropout tourniquet: Easing the transition from middle to high school. Preventing School Failure, 53(3), 177-184.
  • Smith, J. S. (2006). Research summary: Transition from middle school to high school. Retrieved from:
    http://www. Smith, J. S., Akos, P., Lim, S., & Wiley, S. (2008). Student and stakeholder perceptions of the transition to high school. High School Journal, 91(3), 32-42.