21+ things to know about starting high school


Tips for starting high school

When your kid is starting high school, it’s almost as daunting as when they started ‘big school’. Because, let’s face it, high school is the real big school. Starting high school is the beginning of both the end and the beginning. Yup, it’s a very confusing time.

My eldest two kids are in Year 8 and Year 9 this year, so starting high school is fresh in our minds. I’ve also got a Year 6 kiddo, waiting in the wings for next year. We’ve spent the past couple of years gathering tips and courage, so here’s the best advice we can give. Much of it is directly from a group of high school teachers who we love and trust too.

This will help too: 21+ tips from high school teachers to get organised at high school

21+ top tips for starting high school

1. Feel the fear

Starting high school is very exciting, but it’s also terrifying. Just know that you are going to feel scared about it at some point, and that’s okay. Find a place somewhere inside yourself for your high school nerves to hang out, so you can get on with things.

2. Remember, you’re not alone

“Everyone is feeling nervous, some just have braver looking faces than others. Don’t be shy to mention your nerves to some of the other kids. They will be so relieved to share their own worries with you. Instant bond!” – Mary, 12+ years English teacher

Starting high school - top tips from teachers and parents

3. Ask a teacher

“It can be a bit daunting to ask other students things you don’t know, so find a teacher. We promise we are here to help!” – Aaron, Maths and PE teacher

4. Meet up with kids from your old school

There’s a good chance that you may move onto a new friendship group pretty quickly, but beginning the year with familiar faces makes a big difference. Meet up outside the school gates before the bell and head into school together.

5. Touch base with old friends

You may all have split up to new schools, but a WhatsApp chat with your old mates at the end of the first day means a lot. This is a group that knows you well, and it will really help to calm your nerves. It’s exciting to compare notes too.

6. Be kind to yourself

You’ll probably embarrass yourself at least 67 times in the first term after starting high school. Expect it, embrace it, move on from it.

Starting high school - top tips from teachers and parents

7. Don’t go crazy on the extra-curriculars

Spend a term getting to know your high school before you leap into too many things. This includes at-school activities and your usual after-school activities. Learning a whole new school is going to be tiring.

8. But do get involved

“One of the best things about high school is that there is so many more things for kids to try. It’s so sad when kids choose not to have a go at at least one thing. Find one thing.” – Ann-Marie, 20+ years HSIE teacher and deputy principal

9. Big, but still kids

“The hardest things for Year 7s to get used to can often be the fact that they are in the playground with what appears to be ‘men’ and ‘women’. Well, that’s what Year 11 and 12 can seem like to the younger kids. It’s important to remember that they are just kids too, and the school rules apply equally to the giants.” – Mary, 12+ years English teacher

10. Find your way around

“It’s a good idea to spend a couple of recesses or lunch times having a walk around your new school to familiarise yourself. Suggesting a walk is a great ice breaker with a couple of new friends too.” – Jodie, Year adviser and Science teacher

11. Timetable is life

The timetable is everything at high school. If you don’t understand anything on the schedule, ask straightaway. Print out a small copy to stick in your diary and remember to take it every day (it helps to laminate a ‘back up’ copy to keep in the bottom of your school bag). Have a larger copy near your desk to help you pack the right books in the mornings. If you do forget your timetable, head straight to the office and ask for help.

12. Ask questions

If you have questions, you need to find the answers to ensure high school starts on a smooth path. If you feel to shy to ask during the assemblies or even in class, seek out the teacher afterwards. There won’t be a single question you could ask that they haven’t heard before.

13. Give it time

You’re not going to master high school in a day, a week, or even a month. Relax, go gently and allow yourself plenty of time to get up to speed.

14. Get organised

Every teacher will do things differently and every class will demand something new of you. To keep up, you’ll need a system to stay on track. A helpful first step is to allocate a different colour to each of your subjects – colour the top edge of your exercise book in that colour so you can find it quickly in your school bag. Keep a manilla folder in the same colour for class notes and for filing your assignments. There are some more great tips for getting organised here.

15. Be open

New friendships are quite easy to make as everyone ambles around trying to find their way. Be friendly and open and try to help anyone and everyone where you can. You never know who your new bestie might be.

16. Get to know your year adviser

“Your year adviser [they might be called something different at your high school, but they are basically the teacher who will be with you from year 7 right through to year 12] is there to help. They will be trying to get to know 100s of kids all in one go, so make yourself known to them straightaway. Believe me, it will be a relief to them to know they have at least one name straight!” – Jodie, Year adviser and Science teacher

17. Have a transport back up

“Getting the bus to and from school (and sometimes a train or two as well), can be very daunting for those staring high school. Maybe have someone take you and pick you up for the first week or two. It’s even better if they are available as a backup option throughout the year, just in case you miss a bus. It happens a lot.” – Lucy, 8+ years English teacher

18. Get to know the school match-makers

If you find yourself without a friendship group, head to the library. School librarians are uncannily good at match-making errant friends. If it doesn’t happen for you quickly, don’t worry. Enjoy the books and just know that there’s a friend out there for everyone.

19. Invite friends around

When you do find a new group of friends, have them over after school. Heaven forbid, don’t call it a ‘play date’, but it’s much the same thing. Being at one another’s houses is a fast track way to getting to know someone.

20. Ride the ups and downs

Sometimes you’ll feel great about starting high school, other times you’ll think it’s the worst thing that ever happened to you. High school can be a very overwhelming place. Just remember that the downs soon head up. If you find yourself feeling down about it a lot, go and have a chat with your year adviser. They will have lots of strategies for helping you navigate your way back up again.

21. Face the homework

Starting high school means you’ll be facing loads more school work. You may as well face it. Set yourself a homework routine and try to stick with it.

It’s not so bad: 20+ tips to take the hassle out of homework

22. Be screen smart

One of the challenges of starting high school is that, depending on your school, suddenly you have unlimited access to your phone and ipad every single lunch time. You’ll see rows of kids (especially the boys) lined up, playing games and watching YouTube. Not an especially social way to be at school, so make sure you learn to switch off sometimes and do something else. Sports on the oval, a walk around the school, having a chat, good old handball – no screen required.

23. Look after yourself

It’s natural that you’ll be under a lot of extra stress when starting high school. It’s more important than ever that you eat healthy, nutritious food, get some exercise every day (walking to school?) and get a proper night’s sleep. That means switching off your phone at a decent time and not having it in your room. If you ‘need’ your phone as an alarm clock, buy an alarm clock.

Got some tips to add for new high school starters?

Feature image and girls with anatomy model both by Craig Robinson; class of kids and school boy both by Monkey Business / all from Deposit Photos

Written by Bron Maxabella

Bron is the founder of Mumlyfe and is so happy to welcome you here. Bron has been writing in the Australian parenting space as Maxabella for more than seven years and is mum to three mostly happy kids and wife to one mostly happy husband. Mostly happy is a win, right?

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