Freshmen given chance to succeed

Published 7:52 pm Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Study after study proves that the transition from middle school to high school is one of the hardest transitions that students make in their educational careers. There are so many new things to get used to — changing classes, note-taking, lecture styles, exams, hormones, new schools, and on and on. It’s no wonder that ninth grade is considered such a pivotal time in a teenager’s life. It’s no wonder that so many teens entering high school feel cast adrift. And it’s no wonder that poor ninth-grade experiences so often turn into poor high school experiences, right up to dropouts, late graduation and discipline problems.

School systems around the nation have learned through the years that letting teens show up for their first day in high school without some kind of preparation all but encourages their failure. Those systems have taken a lesson from colleges, which offer their own incoming freshmen anything from a few days to a couple of weeks worth of time to get acclimated to the university climate before diving into their studies.

At the high school level, freshman orientation is limited to part of a day, and the length of time varies depending on the school. But the program is no less important for being offered in an abbreviated format. During orientation, students are told about the expectations that teachers and staff have for them, they learn about the rules of their new schools, they are introduced to the faculty members who are most likely to be able to help them have successful high school careers, and they hear about some strategies to help them make the most of the four years ahead of them.

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None of these topics are instinctual, and most of them won’t have been covered in middle school, so a student who misses the freshman orientation will be at a disadvantage.

All three of Suffolk’s high schools are holding freshman orientation programs within the next week. If you have a child moving from middle school to high school, attendance at her new school’s particular program should be an indispensible part of her summer wind-down. Help your student get the best start and have the highest chance of success. Find out when and where the orientation is scheduled, and make sure he attends.