Guide to Choosing a High School: For Middle School Families
Dear Future High School Graduate and Families,
You are about to graduate 8th grade and may be wondering where you will choose to go to high school. You are probably worried about what high school is like, or nervous about starting a new school and not knowing many of your classmates or teachers. We know choosing the right school may be scary, but we are here to help. High school is a crucial time for you to grow both personally and intellectually. It also helps prepare you for your transition to college and provides you with essential skills to be used in the job market. In this guide, you’ll find advice about what you should do during your 8th grade year that will help you pick the right high school. There are also tips for choosing your high school, and suggestions for a successful 9th grade year. Be sure to visit schools during open house, attend school fairs, and ask lots of questions. The more you get to know each school, the greater your options.
Your 8th Grade Year:
Your 8th grade teachers are doing their best to make sure you are ready for the big transition to high school. Make sure to hear what they have to say, and take their advice! A few suggestions to ensure that you are well prepared are:
Make sure you have a good attendance record. In high school, you will see increased responsibility. Start practicing in 8th grade by not having more than 2 absences per semester.
Participate in extracurricular activities at your school. High schools offer many programs, including sports, arts, academics and other activities. Make sure you have taken the time to deepen your interests so you know what you are looking for.
Make a list of your hobbies and interests. Look for high schools that have programs that match these interests.
Get to know your guidance counselor. The more they know you, the more they can help you make the correct choice.
Take the time to visit your choice high schools. Be sure to observe students in high school classes, experience a typical daily schedule, and figure out what you need to be successful in each particular high school.
Tips to Choosing Your High School:
Choosing your perfect school is no easy job. The following 8 tips are designed to help ensure that you make the right choice:
Tip #1: Remember what’s important to you.
What are your family’s values, your beliefs, your culture? Find the school that you feel fits best. Ask yourself what you feel is most important. Is there one school with the type of environment that you know will bring out the best in you?
“Choose a high school that allows you to get out of your comfort zone! By having access to these new opportunities, be willing to get involved and say yes to challenges that you may not otherwise. There’s a place for everyone, and remember your first high school choice doesn’t have to be your last!”
-Kamryn Montague, BFA Class of ‘18
Tip #2: Don’t forget about the teachers.
Teachers are to schools what engines are to cars. While many features of a school are essential, others are luxuries. Teachers, however, can make or break a child’s thirst for knowledge. Teachers with a passion for learning possess the ability to ignite young minds, and foster a natural curiosity within their students. There are few questions to ask yourself when considering different high schools:
How do the teachers interact with their students, and their students with them?
How engaged are the students in class?
How diverse is the faculty? Do the teachers come from a wide range of backgrounds? Have the teachers studied at a wide range of universities both in the United States and abroad?
Will the teacher “see” you?
Would you want to be in the teacher’s class?
"When it came down to choosing BFA, it was easy. My answer was in the substantial Fine Arts Department.”
-Sofia Spana, BFA Class of ‘17
Tip #3: You are the company you keep.
Friends and friendships are important to teenagers, and positive relationships are an important part of the journey to adulthood. Adults know that when you ask a teenager where they want to go to school, the answer will likely be based entirely on where their friends are going. A few questions to ask when considering different high schools are:
Will these friends help me make positive decisions?
Will these friends help open doors for me and my future?
Tip #4: Smaller is better.
Small student to teacher ratios have been found to nurture relationships between both students and teachers. It has also been found that small group work helps improve student achievement, improve test scores and leads to greater success in college. To get an idea of the amount of attention you will get from a classroom teacher, multiply the number of sections in a day that each teacher has by the average class size. This can give you a general idea of how much one on one attention a teacher is likely to be able to give each of their students.
Tip #5: Practice leadership to learn leadership.
Teenagers need to have opportunities to use their leadership skills to make a difference in their own lives, as well as in the lives of others. With this in mind, leadership development needs to be taught and fostered from an early age. This development encourages children to analyze their own strengths and weaknesses, to set important goals, and to gain the confidence and motivation to carry out those goals. Be sure to look for a school where you can have opportunities to not only participate in clubs and organizations, but to create them. Ask yourself if the school has teachers and administrators that believe every student should have the opportunity to practice their leadership skills.
Tip #6: Use your brain!
The teenage brain is more focused on the rewards of its peers, and creates a "perfect storm" for risky behavior. It is important that schools help to channel this drive, and provide safe activities that focus on teens' need for thrill seeking. Choose a school that challenges students to travel, try out for a play or team, represent their peers in the student government, or tutor other students. Make sure that there are teaching opportunities for you to grow in positive ways, and that there is a teaching staff that helps foster this need in you.
“Searching for a high school is different for different people depending on what a person is look for. I chose BFA because of the academic programs, the sports teams and family traditions.”
-Shea Dukas, BFA Class of ‘17
Tip #7: Getting into college doesn’t have to hurt.
The key to finding the best college is finding the right match. Not only should you feel lucky to go to the college of your choosing, but the college should feel lucky to have you too! In order to find the best match, you will need to explore the many options available. Choose a high school that has advising and college counseling, meetings with representatives from many colleges, and that helps to arrange trips to visit colleges. The school's counselors are imperative in helping students find the place that they will not only be accepted, but that they will thrive.
Tip #8: Not just a stepping stone.
During high school, students learn skills that will affect them throughout their life. You will make decisions, form habits, and gain independence. You are expected to start making choices on your own, and the demands may grow stressful. Positive relationships with your parents and other adults are imperative for you to help build your identities, form healthy relationships and find mind/body balance. Be sure to find a high school where you can receive consistent guidance from the adults around you on a daily basis.
“I thought about family. It also helped that BFA has a great athletic program, especially hockey. I grew up hearing about how great BFA was. I watched my cousins play in the hockey games, football games, and hearing all of the crazy stories about teachers. When it came to deciding where I would go, I knew BFA would make me as happy as it made it my family. And I was right.
-Gabbi Metz, BFA Class of ‘17
Choosing the right high school is an important and often difficult task. Check with the high schools you have interest in and see if they any events planned. Taking parts in visits and open houses will ensure that you have the best chance to find out which school is the best fit to be your school. A list of the high schools in Northern Vermont are listed below:
- Chittenden County: Franklin County:
- Burlington High School, Burlington Bellows Free Academy, Fairfax
- Champlain Valley Union High School, Hinesburg Bellows Free Academy, St. Albans
- Colchester High School, Colchester Enosburg Falls Middle/High School, Enosburg Falls
- Essex High School, Essex Junction Missisquoi Valley Union Middle/High School, Swanton
- Lake Champlain Waldorf High School, Shelburne Richford Junior/Senior High School, Richford
- Milton Senior High School, Milton Avalon Triumvirate Academy, Fairfax
- Mount Mansfield Union High School, Jericho
- Rice Memorial High School, South Burlington
- Rock Point School, Burlington
- South Burlington High School, South Burlington
- Trinity Baptist High School, Williston
- Vermont Commons School, South Burlington
- Winooski High School, Winooski