Making the transition from middle school to high school can be an exciting time, albeit an intimidating process. Students suddenly find themselves with several options as new activities and choices are introduced while academics become more challenging, and expectations are higher.
While new activities mean new friendships—especially for students who are new to campus—they can also bring with them feelings of anxiety and pressure. To assist our freshmen with their transition and alleviate undue anxiety, we carry out a series of courses we call Freshmen Seminar, which focus on helping students build skills and abilities that will allow them to be successful in high school.
Last month, we kicked off our first Freshmen Seminar course which provided a great opportunity for our students to get to know their counselor and their peers.
Here are a few key takeaways from our fist Freshman Seminar course that parents should be aware of in order to better support freshmen as they embark on their high school journey.
Get enough sleep
The American Academy of Sleep medicine recommends that teenagers sleep an average of 8-10 hours per 24 hours. Parents can help by encouraging their teenager to establish a routine before bedtime. Actions such as turning off all electronics, dimming the lights, and practicing meditation all are useful for reinforcing an early bedtime.
Because high school offers additional opportunities and activities, time management and organization are essential for student success. Parents can help by providing students with a planner, calendar, or an organization app. It's a good idea to set aside some time to talk with students about their schedules and make sure they are using their time management tools effectively. A few practical and student friendly time management apps include Evernote, Todoist and Trello.
Connect with the school
It is always advisable to maintain an open line of communication with your student's teachers, counselors and administrators. Research shows that students whose families remain connected are more likely to perform better academically and stay involved in co-curricular activities.
Email teachers or counselors if you have questions, attend school events, and more importantly, show interest by asking your student about their day. Welcome any discussion about incidents or school events and be an active listener.
As high school counselors, we understand the dynamics of a new 9th grade class of students, which is why our overarching theme of our freshman curriculum is focused on helping students learn how to be successful in high school.
Preparing students for high school, university and beyond
In upcoming Freshman Seminar courses, we will continue teaching academic readiness skills such as time management, note-taking, and transition skills. We will also spend time introducing freshmen to our university platform, Cialfo.
We will present 10th grade course options later on the school year so that students will have some time to discover their interests and passions and can make informed decisions about which courses to take based off of their 9th grade year, the guidance of their counselors, and their individual academic and career goals. This will become increasingly more important as we prepare our students to be candidates for universities all over the world.
Before conversations about university options and standardized testing take place, it is necessary to have conversations about abilities, strengths, and interests. To support our students with this, we use the Values in Action (VIA) Survey of Character Strengths which is an assessment designed to help identify a student's strengths and interests. Identifying strengths helps boost confidence, increase happiness, and accomplish goals.
While it is true that universities place significant emphasis on academic attainment such as grades, they also review candidates through a holistic lens that is inclusive of extracurricular activities, volunteerism, leadership roles, and special talents. Understanding character strengths and values allows us to be more effectively cultivate the ideal high school experience for our students as we prepare them to be leaders and pioneers who will thrive in the 21st century workplace.
Rita Hinojosa is a high school counselor
at Concordia International School Shanghai