Colleges are experienced in having programs that help incoming freshman transition to the rigors of undergraduate life. But schools are seeing the need to help with an earlier transition -- the one into the freshman year of high school. Going from middle to high school can be a major adjustment for students. To help students navigate their new experiences, schools are beginning to offer courses, and in some cases, mentoring, to help them make the transition from middle school to the ninth grade.
At Maplewood High School in Nashville, every freshman is required to take a semester-long freshman seminar course that helps them think about what they want to do with their lives, and prepares them for what high school will be like.
Maplewood’s Freshman Seminar teacher Shereen Cook said that in previous years, freshmen used the seminar class to learn about Metro Nashville’s "academy" system and receive guidance on choosing a track, like college prep, health care or vocational programs. But a new policy of citywide high school choice has meant moving that piece to eighth grade, so students can decide earlier. The new Freshman Seminar will concentrate on preparing kids for the high school transition, learning about college and choosing a career.
“We research the [traditional] 16 career clusters that exist out there, because we want them to know what their options are,” Cook said. “Some come in with an idea of what they want to do already, but many are still very young: All the boys want to go into sports. OK, so if you don’t go pro, let’s have a backup plan. What are your talents and skills and interests? How could those connect to a career?”
For many of Cook’s students at Maplewood, they will be the first in their families to attend college, so learning how college works is paramount. All freshmen tour a Nashville college campus, and research colleges. “We learn: What does it take to get into college, what does tuition mean?" Cook said. "Some of these basic things, especially at our school, are meant to bridge that gap, so students can envision themselves there and know the vocabulary related to college.”