High School Transitions Hub

Everything you need to prepare for the new challenges of high school

Gear up for the high school hustle.

High school comes with increased demands on your brain and your schedule. We'll help you develop the skills you need to go from middle to mighty.

Schedule a free academic transitions consultation

Private Prep’s Executive Functioning team, comprised of experts in education and psychology, is excited to give you a crash course in some of the key skills you’ll need for high school, from motivation and brain health to time management, digital organization, study skills, and social-emotional tips.

In high school, students are responsible for getting to know themselves as learners. Responsibility increases, explicit instruction decreases, and kids feel the pressure of knowing that high school “counts” in the competitive world beyond. In this guide, we aim to empower rising high school first-years to thrive on their own terms, by breaking down a successful high school transition into five skill sets:

  1. Motivation and brain health
  2. Planning and time management
  3. Physical and digital organization
  4. Studying and test prep
  5. Social-emotional learning and learning styles

Module 1: Motivation and Brain Health

In today’s fast-paced world, maintaining optimal brain health is more crucial than ever for students to stay motivated and excel in their academic journeys. A healthy brain fuels cognitive abilities such as memory, attention, and problem-solving, enabling students to absorb and retain information effectively. By nurturing your brain health, you can unlock that most elusive of capabilities — the ability to motivate yourself to tackle tough academic tasks.

Tips for Parents

Parents: resist the urge to fix things for your children as they develop their independence, encounter small failures, and learn from their mistakes. So hard, we know! Instead, help them problem-solve by asking questions: How did that feel? What did you do that contributed to your success? What changes might you make so that goes more smoothly next time?

Free Resources for Building Brain Health and Motivation

  • Breaking Down the Motivation Equation

    Many students cite procrastination as a major hurdle to their success in high school. The first step to tackling a problem with motivation is to call it what it is — not the result of willful belligerence, but an issue of emotional control.

    Read more
  • Executive Functioning: The Basics

    An overview of the major skills you needs to ensure a smooth and easy transition to high school.

    Read more
  • 4 Life Habits for Stronger Academic Performance

    Maximize the impact of your hard work in school by cultivating habits that nurture your brain.

    Read more

Video Vault: 4 Tips to Ensure Your Brain is Working at its Very Best

In the modules below, we’ll give you concrete guidance to build skills like time management, organization, retention, and more. But in order for those skills to take root, you’ll need to get in the habit of taking care of your brain so that it can work at its best. In this 4-minute video, Director of EF Jenna Prada breaks down four easy ways to ensure your brain has what it needs to perform.

Watch video

Module 2: Planning and Time Management

High school brings with it a wealth of new opportunities from clubs to varsity sports and pairs those opportunities with heavier workloads, increased academic expectations, and complex social calendars. To balance these demands on their time, students need a clear system for planning, prioritizing, and time management.

Planning vs. time management

Planning means identifying the steps necessary to complete a task, while time management suggests an ability to accurately estimate how long each step will take. Both of these skills are vital! A detailed homework plan will quickly fall apart if you only allow 10 minutes for reading a full chapter in a textbook. Likewise, knowing that it takes about an hour to write a one-page essay won’t lead to a strong final product without planning a coherent argument.

Tips for parents

Parents: you can help by insisting that your children have a prepared strategy for maintaining their planning systems. How often will they assess what’s working and what’s not, and how will they course correct? How will they plan for upcoming busy stretches? If you have your own planning routine, consider inviting them to look at their week ahead when you look at yours.

Free Resources for Building Planning and Time Management Skills

  • Make a personal time budget

    Try out one of our team's very favorite exercises, designed to help you learn to intentionally organize minutes and hours in a way that aligns with your priorities.

    Read more
  • Planner Power

    Your time mastery toolkit, complete with our recommendations for the best student planners, tips for using a planner effectively, and guidance on creating a planning system.

    Read more
  • The Pomodoro Technique

    Quickly learn the Pomodoro Technique — a popular and wildly effective time management method that works with (not against!) a teenager's natural attention span.

    Read more

Video Vault: 5 Steps to Accomplish ANYTHING You Put Your Mind To

When kids lack the ability to craft robust plans and actually see those plans through, it can wreak havoc in their academic lives — preventing them from turning in assignments on time, managing challenging course loads, or staying above water come exam time. In this 3-minute video, Jenna Prada lays out 5 steps to accomplish anything you put your mind to: Goal, Obstacle, Plan, Do, Review!

Watch video

Module 3: Physical and Digital Organization

Just like in middle school, high school teachers will each have their own preferences for binders vs. folders vs. spiral notebooks (oh my!), but what high school teachers ultimately want most is for you to keep track of the information they share in their classes. Lots of schools send supplies lists to kick off the year, but we recommend that rising 9th graders also reflect on which organizational systems work best for them individually — and use that knowledge to put their best organizational foot forward.

Tips for Parents

Once your child has crafted organizational systems that make sense to them, you can help them by teaching them self-advocacy skills. If a teacher asks for a binder, but your child knows they won’t put anything in the rings, help them draft an email asking if they can use a folder instead or role play the conversation where your child pitches a different organizational system to their teacher. Jenna Prada, our Director of EF, has been in education for 17 years and so far has only ever known of one teacher to turn down a student’s request to use their own, individualized system.

Free Resources for Developing Physical and Digital Organization

  • 5 Digital Organization Tips for Students

    Use these simple steps to take your digital life from clutter to clarity.

    Read more
  • How Elite Students Get Organized

    Tired of misplacing your notes? Want to get organized but just don't know how? Here's our step-by-step guide to creating a personalized organizational system.

    Read more
  • Creating a Student Workspace

    Having a designated physical workspace is important to maximize their productivity and achieve academic success in high school. Let's get started.

    Read more

Video Vault: 5 Ways to Make Your Workspace Work For You

How many times do you find yourself doing your homework in bed covered by blankets, with your books and laptop buried underneath? This may feel comfortable, but unfortunately it is not a productive way to get your work done. In this 4-minute video, Jenna Prada lays out 5 ways to make a workspace that works in harmony with your habits and study style.

Watch video

Module 4: Study Skills

What is studying? Hint: It’s not the thing you do the night before a test! It’s the act of teaching yourself new information by moving it from short-term to long-term memory. Effective studying involves everything from taking notes, to engaging deeply with homework, to ongoing review, to multi-day test-prep plans.

Tips for parents

If you want to see your child excel, emphasize engagement over results (aka process over grades). Even if your child gets the grade they were hoping for, redirect the conversation back to reflection on what allowed them to perform their best. When you praise habits that will lead to strong retention, you encourage true learning and raise resilient students, which will ultimately lead to outcomes everyone can be proud of.

Free Resources for Building Study Skills

  • Control the Controllables

    Empowering strategies to help you tame anxiety and turbocharge academic success by focusing on what you can control.

    Read more
  • Study Skills 101: The Basics

    Learning to study — from scratch.

    Read more
  • How to Ace Your Next Test

    Lots of kids struggle to study, and classes rarely include clear instructions about how students should prepare for tests. Here are some data-driven study strategies to help you crush your benchmarks.

    Read more

Video Vault: 4 Tips to Master Studying

If studying feels like an endless, miserable slog, then chances are, you don’t actually know how to study. It isn’t your fault — there’s a steep learning curve at school, and not many teachers have the bandwidth to explicitly teach study skills. Thankfully, learning to study isn’t rocket science. In this 2.5 min video, Jenna Prada lays out four easy tips to master studying.

Watch video

Module 5: Social-Emotional Learning and Learning Styles

High school is a crazy time when you’ll explore extracurriculars, manage intense social (and social media) lives, and hopefully find comfort in your own skin. It’s easy to get over-scheduled and overwhelmed, and it’s hard to navigate everything with grace and confidence, especially given the feeling that everything a high schooler does has the potential to impact their entire future.

Tips for parents

We know it takes a great deal of willpower to be the calm in the storm for your child, especially when you likely have your own anxieties about your child entering high school. You can help your child balance all of the pressures they’ll feel by reminding them of their unique strengths and normalizing struggle. If you take a risk in your own life that doesn’t pan out, be transparent with your child, and encourage them to curate a set of activities that is true to them and not a response to outside expectations.

Free Resources for Developing Social-Emotional Skills

  • 4 Exercises to Discover Your True North in High School

    Bite-sized exercises to help you tune out the noise and tune into what really matters.

    Read more
  • Building a Growth Mindset

    How you talk to yourself has an impact. Here's how to build a growth mindset vocabulary and break out of negative thinking patterns.

    Read more
  • How to Formalize Accommodations

    If you get informal accommodations at school, it's critical for those accommodations to be officially documented — before you get into the weeds of college admissions tests.

    Read more

Video Vault: 5 Habits to Take Care of Your Emotions

High school is stressful, and you’re bound to find yourself navigating all kinds of tumultuous emotions over the course of the next four years. Do you have the skills to stay grounded, move through anxiety, and maintain a healthy emotional life? In this 5-minute video, our Director of EF Jenna Prada lays out 5 habits that you can nurture to take care of your emotions in high school.

Watch video

Need help? Have Questions?

If you need more personalized support or guidance in executing your transition to high school, our executive functioning team is here to help.

Schedule a Free Consultation