Starting high school is a big step for kids. It's time for students to leave middle school or junior high behind, and begin classes that can actually have direct impact on their future.

This can mean classes that will relate directly to your child's future career, with occupational classes in trades, healthcare and many others. Even more importantly, the high school classes your child takes will now count toward his or her grade point average that colleges look at to determine admissions. In many ways, preparing for high school is preparing for college and, ultimately, a career.

Before ninth grade, coursework is definitely important and lays the foundations for your child's learning, but college admissions generally look at the grade point average of only ninth through eleventh grade. Twelfth grade is sometimes considered, but often, college admissions decisions have to be made before twelfth grade is complete. So, it's important to get your child off to a good start in ninth grade.

Here are some things you might consider to help your child prepare for high school:


Talk about the transition

If your child currently attends middle school, starting ninth grade usually means also starting at a new school building. High schools are usually larger, gathering the populations of several middle schools, and the large campus can be overwhelming. It's a good idea to visit the school ahead of time and get acquainted with its layout. Many schools have an orientation program for new students that you can take advantage of.

Even if your child is currently attending junior high, and will spend ninth grade there rather than at the high school, there is still a transition to be made. Sit down with your child and talk about the impact his classes will now have. More than ever, it's time for him to do his best.


Set realistic expectations

Help your child understand that although you expect them to do their best, what "best" is, is different for everyone. You aren't demanding perfection. Be sure they understand that your love for them in unconditional, and that everyone makes mistakes.


Let your child know that help is available every step of the way

As the pressures of high school increase, there are school advisors, teachers, tutors and you, as the parent, there to support your child. For some, alternative forms of high school classes work better. Most areas now have high quality and often free high school curriculums available online that increase the learning possibilities. Some children are interested in so many classes they can't fit them all into their schedule, and create more class space by taking certain classes online. Others like working at their own pace, or take online classes for a variety of other reasons.


Prepare for the fun of high school, too

There are clubs, sports and activities for almost any interest where your child can make new friends and find a place amongst her peers. In the larger high school environment, your child can reach out from her previous circle to include new friendships. Service-oriented clubs and activities are great ways to create strong friendships while serving others at the same time.

With a little preparation, your child can make the transition to high school smoothly. Help your child realize that the increased responsibility he feels about grades is part of growing up, and that the memories he makes in high school will last a lifetime.

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