Ready or not: The transition to high school


Early in the morning, a young teenager wakes up to the sound of her dreaded alarm. She wakes up to start getting ready for school, but something’s different this time. Her makeup has to be perfect and she has to appear perfect. She notices that there is a different person staring back at her in the mirror. What happened? High school, they say, is nothing like a musical where everything is perfect.

There’s a lot that comes with a grade, especially ninth grade. It’s not just a number; it’s a symbol of responsibility, it’s a symbol of a stepping stone, but most importantly, it’s a symbol of change. The transition to high school is a drastic change, which greatly affects students in many ways.

Their quest toward adulthood becomes more apparent to them. It’s always apparent to parents and teachers; but once a student hits high school, some of the blind spots disappear. They begin to see themselves as drivers, as college kids, as independent wage earners. They begin to understand more of themselves – who they are, who they hope to become. It’s powerful and poetic.

— Mrs. Angela Hufnagel

“Don’t let the transition get to you too much, once you get there it’s much easier than you think,” said freshman Saryn Tadich in a Norwin transition survey.

Many people worry about other people’s judgment, however, most of the time, everyone is just worrying about themselves. In high school, there are a lot of new people in a new environment, but that should not get you down. It’s best to focus on yourself.

“It’s a real challenge for incoming freshmen coming from middle school to high school,” said Mrs. Angela Hufnagel, a freshmen English teacher. “Academic pressure from their parents, their teachers, and themselves becomes heightened. Social pressures become more consistent and tangible. And, it’s a big year of physical and physiological growth for kids. It’s really rather lovely.”

With change comes great challenges. There are new people to meet and a new place to get used to too. One of the biggest changes in high school is academics. Classes get harder and homework takes longer. Homework can be stressful because we all have lives outside of school, so finding that balance between your personal life and academic life can be overwhelming.

“The most difficult part of transitioning was the workload,” said freshman Emma Reese. “Instead of an hour of homework a night, I had 2-3 hours making it difficult to keep up with my other activities.”

Another difficult aspect of the transition to high school is the scheduling process. After being given a list of options of classes to take, students must decide what classes they want to take, which is not always an easy decision. Sometimes, classes are different than expected, or you are unable to take a specific class due to availability. This can be very difficult for incoming freshmen, especially when they do not know what to expect.

“Knowing the classes is the best way for starting out,” said freshman Baylee Webber. “For example, if you take an elective and in said elective they expected you to have taken a different class first, it would be good to have at least some background.”

An additional struggle of the transition is mental health, anxiety in particular, which can be triggered by the transition to high school as well as all the change that comes with it. In a survey of 60 high school students and 60 middle school students, 35.5% of middle schoolers have anxiety while 57.6% of the surveyed high schoolers have anxiety. While their anxiety might not be because of school, high school would greatly impact it. Of those who have anxiety, 53.6% stated that their leading cause of anxiety at school is the content or curriculum of school, in other words, classes and homework.

According to the CDC, “Because many health behaviors and habits are established in adolescence that will carry over into adult years, it is very important to help youth develop good mental health.”

While much stress has been caused, preparation for the transition to high school has been beneficial to students. 58% of middle schoolers polled have said that their teachers have been preparing them for high school and the more difficult level of academics, whether it be more difficult topics covered or stricter expectations. And in turn, 48% of high school students who were surveyed said high school was easier than they thought it would be.

“From what I’ve seen in the past and this year,” said Mrs. Aimee King, an eighth grade English teacher, “some students are nervous about transitioning to the high school, but most are excited for a bit more freedom. I know there are some negative things about that transition because it is when your grades/behaviors follow you for long after you graduate.”

There is not just preparation for the transition to high school, but also for the rest of high school. High school is a major stepping stone for the rest of your life because it ultimately defines who you are.

“If I’m being honest, I try my very best to prepare them for the hard times, the disappointments, the cyclical nature of living a full life by developing their self-awareness and self-confidence,” commented Hufnagel. “So, through honest feedback, high standards, rigorous and thoughtful work, and a loving heart, I try to help them see for themselves that they are responsible for their happiness. Once you see that, you can’t unsee it. Life becomes a little more fun and a lot more rewarding.”

The importance of high school isn’t always acknowledged, though. While it is noted as a big change, only 59% of middle schoolers surveyed think it will be an important change.

While high school is a major milestone in your life, it shouldn’t be filled with worry. Of the middle schoolers surveyed, 38% said they were most excited for the athletics and clubs that would come with the move to high school.

“I would try my best not to be as scared,” said an anonymous freshman in the Norwin transition survey. “To be honest, the transition wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. Yes, the high school is a new building and it is much bigger, but once you actually learn where you’re going and where everything is, everything is fine!”