The transition from middle school to high school can be described as fun, exciting and stressful all at the same time.

According to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the most impactful reasons students struggle or do not graduate from high school can largely be attributed to the transition from middle school to high school.

Freshman year is one of the most important years of a high schooler’s academic journey, yet it can be one of the most intimidating experiences for young people as self-accountability increases.

Elaine Allensworth, director of the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research said, “school transitions bring considerable change for students. One particular tension is the increase in responsibility that happens when students go to high school, combined with less supervision and less support.”

Familiarizing oneself with the expectations, rules and policies at your new school can assist in avoiding undue stress during this time. It is vital to understand that freshman year is where the foundation of the academic career will begin.

Doing exceptionally well during freshman year allows some wiggle room as the coursework becomes more challenging. Failing grades during freshman year will result in working from a deficit and will put a strain on upcoming years of the high school academic journey.

Integrating into the school culture is another key to a smooth transition. Finding activities and organizations that align with your interests can aid in making new friends and will be valuable for moving from middle to high school.

Frequent communication with your guidance counselor can set you up for success in reaching your goals. During the first week of school, set a time to meet with your guidance counselor so that you can inform them of your plans for life after high school (college, work, or military). They can help you with devising a plan for life after high school.

Research suggests students that invest the time to take a foreign language can increase confidence and personal achievement, improve prospects for college admission and increase their career opportunities. If those are not enough benefits, taking a foreign language in high school is free, in college it will cost you.

In addition to the above suggestions, below are tips to keep you on track and help you reach your goals in freshman year and beyond:

1. Make sure you learn your schedule for ease of navigating the school building.

2. Creating a solid study routine will help you keep up with your academics.

3. Challenge yourself with a balance of rigorous classes.

4. Engage in class discussions to gain a better understanding of the course material.

5. Make sure you are on the right academic track for your plans after high school.

6. Seek help from your teacher if you do not understand something.

7. Pursue opportunities to gain experience through volunteer and community service.

8. Exploring different career interest helps in mapping out future life plans.

9. Find a specific place to keep awards and recognitions and college admissions paperwork.

10. Have fun and make lasting memories!

Lastly, it is important to always stay true to who you are, trying too hard to fit in can be unhealthy and potentially dangerous. If you are finding the transition difficult, do not stay silent. Having a team of not only family and friends, but school staff that you can talk with is critical.

To learn more about youth-serving programs, visit

Vickie LeFlore serves as the positive youth development extension educator for the Kenosha County UW-Extension.