A few months ago I asked 250 students in year 7 the following question:
“What advice would you give students starting year 7 next year?”
To put this in context, these students had just been through a period of massive disruption. Not only had they started at a new school, with new teachers and new subjects but they had a pandemic thrown into the mix.
In other words, it was a really rough start to high school.
But their advice blew me away.
These students had transformed a chaotic situation into one that was somewhat manageable. Their advice was refreshing. These students didn’t mess around. They got straight to the point.
As one student said:
“It [high school] isn’t as weird as the movies make it out to be.”
So it’s time to get grounded in reality. Here is some real and practical life advice to help you make a smooth transition to high school:
1. Making new friends
“Before I started high school, I would have liked to know that making new friends is NOT HARD even when you know absolutely nobody at all.”
“Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. I have made tons of new friends and could have made them quicker if I took the risk and just introduced myself straight away.”
“Roomers spread like wild fire! So be careful about what you tell people because it is most likely to be passed on.”
2. Getting organised
“To have every item of stationery and to have an organised system to sort your textbooks and worksheets.”
“Keep a diary, write reminders.”
“Get an expanding file and desk organisers.”
“Make sure you clean your room regularly. As much as you may not like it, it really makes a big difference.”
“Be organised (having a plastic folder for each subject helped me a lot).”
“Actually use a diary because it helps to be more organised.”
“Have a place for everything. Doing this will allow you to have pride in what you do and finding things will be easy.”
“Bring all schools supplies that you need and have your laptop fully charged.”
3. Taking notes
“Throughout the day write down any homework that comes up and at the end of the day fulfil that list.”
“Try your best by taking notes as much as you can.”
“Take notes because the teachers are giving you the answers to the upcoming test.”
4. Self care
“Get good sleep every night and pack food that will sustain you for the day.”
“Be aware of your back hurting because of your heavy bag.”
“Don’t buy the lemon fizzy drink.”
“Don’t buy all the candy at the bus port.”
5. Personal hygiene and grooming
“Make sure that on picture day your hair doesn’t look bad . . . otherwise you will have to deal with relief teachers telling you how different you look.”
“Just put on deodorant, and do the homework, you’ll get through this.”
6. Getting along with your teachers
“It’s okay to ask for help, it is actually the smarter thing to do when you’re stuck.”
“Make a good impression on the teachers so you get on their good side.”
7. Don’t leave your work until the last minute
“Stop procrastinating. It sounds hard but if you tell yourself that you can do it and think about the benefits ahead you can break the habit. Trust me, it will benefit your future self.”
“Do your assignments on time, otherwise you will regret it!”
“Get all your homework done as soon as possible or you are going to be in a world of pain.”
“Never put things off. It will cause things to build up and cause stress.”
8. Doing your homework
“You need to focus on studying and doing homework. It isn’t like primary school where the homework you get isn’t super important. In high school, a lot of the homework you get will be important to your grades.”
“Homework is not as bad as primary school teachers make it out to be, it’s not torcher.”
“Don’t skip homework (especially Italian) or you will fall behind quickly.”
“Do your homework/assignments/projects first before doing anything else (e.g. video games).”
9. Doing assignments and study
“Don’t expect easy work.”
“Read the rubric [marking guide], because people who do the least work humanly possible can get A’s if it’s related to the task, and people who spend hours studying or researching or writing 5 pages of an essay can get C’s if it isn’t in the rubric.”
“Break your assignments into chunks and work chunk by chunk each day.”
“Don’t think about how hard your work is or how much you have to do. Just go along with the flow of things and actually try your hardest. If you get discouraged remember why you are doing this in the first place (so that you get good grades to get into a very good university).”
“High school is way different to primary school because you can’t wing it by not studying for a test because questions in a high school test aren’t like just the top of your head, you need to study.”
“Don’t give up if something is too hard.”
To sum up
The key is to turn this advice into action. For instance, knowing that you need to use a diary is one thing. But actually creating a daily habit of using a diary is another thing altogether.
My advice is to start small. Pick one new behaviour to practice. Do it over and over again until it becomes a habit (i.e. you’re doing it without even thinking).
And finally, as one student said, “Feeling and getting lost is normal in the first year”. So go easy on yourself. And good luck!