Who’s Prepping Your Student for the Transition to Middle School, High School or College?

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A delightful student that I’m working with is home this spring after a rough first semester away at college. He explained that he had simply not been ready for the significant changes that this transition presented. His high school days had been very structured and the flexibility of his college schedule, with an abundance of open time, highlighted his time management problems. He also realized he didn’t know how to take notes for college lectures, study for tests effectively, or seek out help when he needed it. When he did finally realize it was too late. He’s now working hard to build his study skills and prepare to return to his dream school in the fall, wiser and ready to commit to the challenges of the next stage of his life.

How can you help your student before he or she is already in transition?

tools for students

We assume that our schools are properly preparing students for middle school, high school, and the daunting move to college but study strategies instruction and support are not the primary focus of schools—even though school success is largely the result of excellent executive functioning and well-honed study tools

The focus of our educational system is primarily to teach content—such as algebraic equations, mitosis, and the construction of the Constitution—and not study skills. But if you’re job for the next seven years plus college is to study and do homework (which, essentially is the job of all students) shouldn’t somebody be teaching you how to study and how to do your homework? 

In sports, student athletes aren’t just taught the rules of a particular sport; they’re coached in the requisite skills to succeed at it. Why should it be any different when it comes to academics?

Making the Transition Easier

The transition from elementary school to middle school can be difficult, as can the transition to ninth grade. Students need new study and work habits to succeed.

Here are six important facts about study skill acquisition, executive functioning, and strategies for success:

  1. Executive functioning skills around memory and organizational skills are still being developed well into our 20s, so students need strategies to help them cope with remembering their assignments, handling new and complex information, and managing multiple priorities.

  2. As students move up in grades, workloads get heavier and the opportunities for distraction explode with increasing school-related and social activities. Organizational skills and time management skills become more critical than ever.

  3. Students must learn to be increasingly independent with less parental involvement in their day-to-day homework and studies. Granting students increasing responsibilities and autonomy in their routines is an essential step to helping them transition successfully to the next level in school.

  4. The ability to take notes in a form that promotes easy recall is a vital skill that needs to be learned.

  5. A strong foundation in expository writing, organizing thoughts and arguments on paper (or computer screens), and enhanced reading comprehension are also skills critical to academic success.

  6. Students must assimilate information in written, verbal, and video/audio formats. It’s essential that they become proficient in navigating the various digital platforms their teachers, schools, and classmates use to post assignments, essential information, and grades.

Where can you and your student turn for help in these areas and more?

For over twenty years, SOS4Students has been helping middle school, high school, and college students get and stay organized, hone time management skills, improve study habits, and enhance their note-taking and writing skills.

Our summer workshops and summer coaching are expressly tailored to prepare your student for what comes next and to position him or her for a successful future in school and in life.

SOS4Students Summer Workshops & Coaching

Space is limited and our workshops and summer coaching are popular. Sign up your student today so he/she doesn’t miss out.

  • All workshops held at Tilden Prep (Walnut Creek Campus) except "Writing Rx" and "Write On" which are held at Orinda Academy. 
  • Summer coaching is available at our Walnut Creek and Montclair District offices.

Middle School Workshops

Mastering Middle School empowers students entering sixth grade. Students learn invaluable skills to tackle the demands of multiple teachers and more complex assignments.

Learn More & Sign Up Today

6th - 8th GradesMake sure your child is prepared for the essay-writing challenges ahead with Write On, where we cover essay fundamentals for middle school students.

Learn More & Sign Up Today

7th & 8th GradeMiddle School Blitz gives your students the strategies they need to have control over their time and workload. Prepare your student to balance classwork, homework and outside activities.

Learn More & Sign Up Today

High School Workshops

9th GradeNailing Ninth Grade prepares your student for a successful transition to high school. Students come away with an invaluable toolbox of study strategies they will use every day.

Learn More & Sign Up Today

9th - 11th GradesWriting RX teaches students an easily replicable system for expository essay writing. Students leave confident and prepared to tackle the complex writing assignments that high school demands.

Learn More & Sign Up Today

9th - 11th GradesSecrets of Successful Note Taking demystifies the note taking process. Students learn techniques to take effective notes and use their notes to prepare for tests and papers.

Learn More & Sign Up Today

Summer Coaching

6th - 12th GradesCan't make the workshop you need? Does your student benefit from more individualized attention? All ages (even after high school) and abilities benefit from the one-on-one summer coaching sessions with our seasoned coaches.

Learn More & Sign Up Today

Beth Samuelson 

Discover the 5 Key Skills Students Need to Make a Successful Transition to Adulthood

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This article is a preview of my talk, “Field Guide to Executive Functioning: Jumpstarting your Tween’s Frontal Lobes,” which explores executive functioning and how it’s more critical than IQ, literacy, or numeracy on how students perform in school. To hear my full presentation, I invite you to attend the upcoming conference, Parenting U: Empowering Parents for the Road Ahead, which will be held at the Julia Morgan School for Girls (Mills College Campus) in Oakland on November 11. See below for details on how to register.

If your child can't find his or her homework, misses deadlines, or has trouble getting started on work, you are probably concerned about what is going on and what you, as the parent, are supposed to do to help. Organization and time management are components of what is known as “executive functioning.”  It's the last part of the brain to develop and it is fundamental to academic success. Supporting students in developing what I call “executive independence” is essential to their future in school, and ultimately their ability to manage college and life beyond.


Here are the five key skills students need to make a successful transition to adulthood. Note that this work begins as early as 4th grade and continues through middle school and high school. It's also important to understand that executive function skills develop over time and at different rates, depending on the student:

  1. Planning and Prioritizing: Students need to be able to create a road map to complete their homework and projects and use a planning system.

  2. Time Management: It's essential for students to be able to gauge how long assignments will take them to do and to break down test prep, papers and long-term projects. Busy schedules lead to procrastination of school work and late nights that impact functioning.

  3. Organization: Being able to design and utilize paper and online organization systems to make tracking and completing work easier and more efficient is a critical skill.

  4. Self-Regulation: Digital and social media access interferes with school work. Being able to keep phones out of the study space and turning laptops off an hour before bed is key.

  5. Self-Advocacy: The ability to ask for clarification on directions, obtain help on assignments where they are struggling, and communicate with teachers on a wider range of issues without ultimately parent intervention cannot be understated.

Parenting U: Learn More About These & Other Essential Skills

On November 11, I'll be speaking at the Parenting U Conference at the Julia Morgan School For Girls (Mills College Campus) in Oakland along with 20 other top experts as we explore how parents can best support students in acquiring these and other essential skills.

Early bird registration runs through October 21 and seating is limited, so act now to ensure a spot. 

Register Now at Parenting U

Beth Samuelson