4 Skills Students Need for High School Success

Staff Writer
Baystateparent Magazine
By Cary J. Green

Transitioning from middle school to high school can be exciting and intimidating for students and their parents. Due to the increased academic rigor, most students quickly discover the need to work harder and smarter in high school than they did in middle school. Working harder means more hours of studying, and working smarter means developing and utilizing essential academic success skills.

Parents can begin to prepare their middle-schooler for future success in high school by helping them understand the need to ramp up their effort and by facilitating their development of essential academic success skills.


Personal organization is an academic success skill that will greatly benefit your student. Organizing all assignments into a central location reduces the likelihood of misplaced assignments and can save time otherwise lost trying to find that elusive math homework sheet. Your student can use a simple manila folder for hard-copy assignments and can set up a homework directory on their computer for electronic assignments.

Students can further organize their school work by creating a worksheet to record the due date, completion date, and submission date for each assignment, paper, and project. Test dates should be entered, as well. They can review the worksheet every evening to stay aware of upcoming deadlines.

Help your child organize their study time by designating a specific time each day. Doing so is more efficient than trying to wedge academics into a busy schedule. Find a quiet place for him or her to study, and minimize distractions by prohibiting cell phones in the study area.

Break 90- or 120-minute study sessions into 20- or 30-minute blocks. Tailor the sessions to optimize your student’s study time. Begin with shorter time blocks as needed, and assess progress based on the child’s learning, rather than solely on time spent studying. A 5- or 10-minute break between blocks can be used to take a walk, kick a soccer ball, or similar activity to boost energy levels.

Help children build in goals for each study session. For example, for the first 20-minute block, set a goal to outline a term paper. After a break, the child can spend 30 minutes conducting research on the topic. Reward him or her with something enjoyable after study sessions. Ultimately, they should develop the responsibility to manage their own study sessions and meet deadlines.

Time management

For several years, I taught an orientation/academic success course for college freshmen. I asked students to discuss a significant challenge they faced, and every semester, time management was the most common answer.

Time management is an essential skill for high-school and college students. They can be set up for success by helping them learn to manage time effectively.

The organization techniques listed above contribute to effective time management. Outlining the steps needed to complete term papers and similar large projects is another useful time management technique. The time required to complete each step and the deadline for each can be entered into the worksheet discussed above.

The worksheet can be used to develop a daily task list. Doing so helps school work flow smoothly and keeps your student on track.


Note-taking is another essential academic success skill because notes often serve as a significant source of information for study and test review.

Help your student find a note-taking system that works for them. The Cornell method and mind-mapping are highly effective techniques to capture and review notes. The Cornell method was developed at Cornell University and is used to capture notes, highlight key points, and create a summary on a single sheet of paper.

Mind maps are used to visually summarize and organize class material. Mind maps can be used to take notes during class, or to summarize and organize notes after. Numerous videos demonstrating the Cornell method and mind mapping are available online.

Students should review their notes daily. Encourage your child to highlight key points and also mark confusing material for further discussion with the teacher.

Study skills

In an ideal world, grades indicate how well your student understands the class material. In reality, however, they also indicate how well your child studies for and takes tests.

Help your student understand that studying for tests is an ongoing learning process rather than a night-before activity. Children benefit from a daily review of material from each class. Starting a week or so prior, students should dedicate as much time as needed to learn the material.

Constructing sample test questions is an effective study technique. Students can then ask their teacher to review their answers. Studying with a small group allows peers to help each other learn. Study groups also can create sample test questions and collaboratively discuss how to answer each question.

Helping your middle school student develop these essential academic success skills will ease their transition to high school and also provides a solid foundation for success in college.

Cary J. Green, PhD, empowers students to enhance their academic performance while building career-readiness skills that employers seek. Visit caryjgreen.com for information on his new book, Success Skills for High School, College, and Career.