Freshmen reflect on the academic transition from middle school to high school


Credit: Reva Datar

A freshman history class taught by Sarah Lee begins their studies on the Boxer Rebellion amid the return from the holiday break. Freshmen students have been learning to adjust their schedules for the workload from multiple classes. “It’s very different, there’s a lot more free range,” freshman Jordynn Lee said. “The teachers give us a lot more freedom, and the students are very different too.”

Reva Datar

With first semester drawing to a close, the freshmen at Wayland High School have had time to reflect on their academic transition to high school. They have many thoughts on how they performed over the past few months, what they have learned from it and their aspirations for the rest of the year.

Last year, the current freshmen’s middle school schedules were extremely different than they are now at the high school, largely due to COVID-19. At the middle school last year, students had just three classes a day for 90 minutes each. This is a stark contrast to the schedule at the high school which consists of six classes a day, each for 54 minutes.

How this class time is spent also differentiates the high school experience from the middle school. Since the classes at the high school are shorter and the courses more rigorous, some students reported less bonding time between students and their peers during class.

“The classes in the high school are definitely more packed than the middle school,” freshman Tara Sawrikar said. “The material is much more dense and thorough.”

Another difference: the student-teacher relationships.

“The number one difference is teachers,” Sawrikar said. “In middle school, you got to know your teachers more. I’m not sure if that’s because we spent more time in the class, or if the high school is more strict. It’s not bad, but it’s noticeable.”

Freshman Jordynn Lee agreed with Sawrikar, noting that it is more difficult to communicate with teachers at the high school.

“I definitely think that it’s harder to communicate with high school teachers compared to middle school teachers since the schedule is pretty different,” Lee said.

Some freshmen have reported that they had struggled with adapting to the academic expectations at the high school. Lee and Sawrikar have had to adjust to the new environment, as well as alter their schedules to meet the academic demand as a ninth-grader. The environment forced both to evolve their study habits.

“Before I came to the high school, I would study the night before the quiz because that’s how I retained the information,” Lee said. “Since I came to high school, I still study the night of, but I also study every night leading up to [it]. I definitely learned that now I need to manage my studying time more wisely and think about what I need to prioritize ahead of time.”

Sawrikar also said she wants to begin studying for exams further ahead of time.

“I’m going to try to get better at studying for tests earlier,” Sawrikar said. “I’d always push studying for tests to the day before, or the second to last day. I think I’ll try working a week in advance.”

With the regular challenges students face during the transition from middle to high school—on top of the obstacles presented by the coronavirus— Sawrikar and Lee have had to act more independently and seek out the resources at the high school.

“The upperclassmen are always open to help,” Sawrikar said. “I have used the academic center for finding a French tutor. It does help a lot. Even if you are good at a subject, you can always get a tutor to help reinforce things you already know.”

The Academic Center is located in the school’s library, and it is a place where students can receive feedback on their essays and help with understanding concepts.

“We do have a lot of ninth-grade students coming in for help with peer tutors,” Academic Center assistant Eimile Bowden said. “Before midterms, we expect to see a lot of students come in for a quiet place to study and for help with their work.”

Overall, with nearly two quarters under their belt, the freshmen have become accustomed to the high school environment. Along with this, they have also acknowledged their new academic responsibilities and their contrast to middle school.

“I think that middle school prepared us for most things,” Sawrikar said. “It was like transitioning from elementary to middle school. [The preparation] got you halfway there, and the rest was up to you to navigate.”