How Can Freshmen and Sophomores Build Skills for the ACT and SAT?
February 18, 2019

Take It from Us: High Schoolers’ Advice for Eighth Graders

advice eighth graders high school

No doubt about it: starting high school can be scary! Wouldn’t it be nice if someone who’s made the leap could give you a heads up about what to expect? Is there anything you can do now as an eighth grader that will help you get the most out of high school?

Well, you’re in luck! We recently asked a few NW high schoolers and their moms to share some words of wisdom with current eighth graders. Freshman Frankie and his mom, Susan; freshman Isaiah and his mom, Emily; and sophomore Nathan and his mom, Susan, were kind enough to talk about what they did right in eighth grade, and what they wish they would have known to do better.

“Time management is challenging! In middle school, it’s fed to you in small bites, but in high school you need to see the bigger picture.” – Susan (Nathan’s mom)

Yes! We hear this all the time. Many students have a hard time keeping up with the increased demands of high school. The work is harder, there’s more of it, and teachers aren’t going to hold your hand. As Emily pointed out, “Efficiency is huge, and you have to know how to prioritize.”

A solid organization system, a good planner (paper or online), and a daily routine are essential to completing quality assignments on time – as well as fitting in extracurriculars, time with friends, and sleep! Find out what works best for you in eighth grade, when the stakes aren’t so high, and the transition to high school won’t be so rough.

Interestingly, both Frankie and Isaiah talked about not appreciating all the free time they had in eighth grade. Isaiah said, “After school I dilly dallied a lot with my friends instead of going home and getting homework done.” Frankie told us that he wished he’d used that time to learn more about his interests.

What wonderful reflection! That sort of awareness helps kids take ownership and make good decisions. Think about your days and weeks now, and imagine yourself in the future looking back. What do you think future-you would tell current-you to do with some of that extra time?

“What he learned made his foundation going into ninth grade stronger.” – Susan (Frankie’s mom)

Frankie was glad he spent the summer before high school revisiting and mastering some math concepts. “It wasn’t stressful because it was really fun to work with my tutor,” he told us. It made the entire freshman year easier because he was confident about his math skills. We hear similar comments from students who work on their writing over the summer. Mastering the basics also allows you to grow because you can focus your attention on the more difficult work.

Frankie’s mom, Susan, realized the importance of vocabulary while Frankie prepped for his high school admissions tests. To build his vocabulary, he read books in addition to school-required reading. “Any reading helps, so we really encourage Frankie to pick books he wants to read to also maintain a love of reading.”

Here are some of our favorite math and reading resources:

“You can get away with poor study habits in junior high but not in high school.” – Emily (Isaiah’s mom)

That’s right. It’s not enough just to pay attention in class or study the night before the test. Preparing for a test includes taking good notes, learning from mistakes, applying active study strategies, and understanding the test format (there’s a big difference between a multiple choice test and an open-response test!).

Nathan was grateful that his eighth grade math teacher pushed him and his classmates to study. She taught them to utilize different resources and various study strategies. His mom, Susan, also likes to ask this insightful question: “How do you know if you’re ready?” Learning how to be an engaged studier is vital to truly understanding concepts and doing well on tests.

For a lot of students, freshman year is the first time they’ve had to take finals. “I was definitely nervous. I didn’t know how hard or how easy they’d be,” said Nathan. Knowing what to expect as a sophomore, he created a schedule to study ahead of finals and did well!

“I wish I’d communicated with my teachers myself instead of my parents doing it.” – Isaiah

Like we mentioned earlier, high school teachers won’t hold your hand; you need to be independent and advocate for yourself. Isaiah’s point is a good one: learning to talk with your teachers in eighth grade will make it less daunting to do in high school.

A good place to start is to ask one of your teachers to help you prepare for a test. Schedule a time to meet, and then prepare for the review session. Jot down some questions (e.g. What’s the test format? What’s an active study strategy I could use?), make a list of materials to take with you (e.g. completed homework assignments), and note any content you’d like to review.

Why is communicating with your teachers so important?

  • They can help you understand content and prepare for tests
  • When they know you and see how invested you are in doing well, they’re more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt if you slip up at some point
  • You may need them to write you a recommendation letter for a job, internship, volunteer opportunity, or college admissions
  • They can teach you academic and executive functioning skills that will serve you well in college

These meetings are real confidence builders, too. Taking responsibility for yourself and knowing how to ask for help are two super important life skills!

“Put yourself out there. Talk to every person you see.” – Nathan

We focus a lot on the actions students can take to become better learners, and it’s important not to forget the impact their social life has on their education. Expanding your social circle can seem intimidating at first, but there are so many ways to do it.

Nathan’s mom, Susan, told us that he attended a summer camp at his high school. “He met a lot of people before school started. He would go out to lunch with people after camp. When he started school, he knew someone in every class.”

Find out what your school and community offers in the way of sports, arts, classes, and other activities. Frankie was encouraged to volunteer, and that opened his eyes to helping others which he found very valuable. It created a lifelong interest in giving back!

Before eighth grade, Frankie had the same bunch of friends. However, in eighth grade he developed new friendships through school and other activities, and that opened him up to building a more diverse friend group in high school. He found that this helped with schoolwork in high school because “there’s a big push to work with different sets of people all the time and you aren’t graded only on your work, but on your ability to work with different people. You have to be very open to figuring out how to get along with everyone.”

Feeling a bit less nervous about the jump from eighth grade to high school? Our hope is that you realize how much control you have over your future experience. It takes a little work and a little courage, but it’s so worth it!

If you could use some guidance as you prepare for high school, give us a call! We’d love to help.