How Much Harder is High School Than Middle School?

As you get ready to head into freshman year of high school, there’s no doubt there are some jitters. That’s okay! You might be pleasantly surprised to learn, however, that high school isn’t necessarily harder, but it is certainly different.

Two high school girls visiting a college before applying to it.

High School vs. Middle School: Is It That Much Harder?

It’s natural for classes to get more difficult as time goes on. After all, you’re tackling more complex ideas year after year. That’s a part of education. Middle school was technically “harder” than elementary school. There will be harder classes, and you might need to put in extra work for some. As long as you have a good foundation, though, you should be able to handle these courses. Thousands of students have made it through – and so will you!

The “difficulty” of high school really depends on the student, and, of course, the teacher and their approach to the material. Some teachers may expect more out of you than other students, making the course more difficult but rewarding. Other teachers may not be the best at what they do and struggle to relate to students. And a few will be excellent at describing even the most complex ideas to their classes. This is likely the same experience you had in middle school, and you will probably have a similar one in college.

You should note though that during your time in high school, you will have more individual responsibility and your workload may be heavier. If you’re a good student, though, the transition into your 9th year shouldn’t be hard at all.

So How is High School Different from Middle School?

There are a few differences you should note before your first day of freshman year at your high school.

You Will Have More Control Over Your Courses

Many students entering high school will have more control over their courses. This may not be the case for 9th grade – it really depends on the school – but it definitely should happen in 10th, 11th, and 12th. You will be able to select electives that interest you ranging from everything from psychology to cooking.

In most cases, you will meet with your guidance counselor before the new school year to review your required classes, go over your options, and choose any electives. It’s also important to note that they do tend to take your preferences into account, so talk to them, even if the school year has already started. For example, if you find in the first few weeks you took on too many electives, they may be able to work with your schedule to make it more appropriate for you.

More Opportunities for Advanced Material

With more elective options comes to the opportunity for more advanced (and just different) material! The options really vary from school to school and grade to grade, but you can sometimes find some really niche classes in your high school. Some offer ASL and Latin classes while others may offer advanced math courses like calculus. These are examples, however, where high school is absolutely more difficult than middle school.

Come 11th and 12th grade, you may even be offered the opportunity to take AP courses or college courses through your local community college to get some college credit under your belt!

If you’re thinking about selecting an advanced class, be sure to talk to your guidance counselor first. Some have prerequisites and they will want to talk to you about the expected workload.

Heavier Workload

With high school classes, there does tend to be a heavier workload. You might receive more complex assignments, additional homework, or take on more classes than you did in middle school. This isn’t necessarily more difficult, but it will take up more of your time.

Grades are More Important

Grades absolutely mattered in middle school, but they’ll become even more important in high school. They can affect your ability to get into advanced classes, but they can also impact your college options. If you want to get into one of the top colleges or universities in your state or in the country, you’re going to need top grades.
Your scores could also impact your ability to get financial aid and scholarships.

Some merit scholarships require you to have over a certain GPA. The Florida Bright Futures program, for example, also requires students to have a 3.0 GPA minimum in order to qualify.

And, of course, you’ll need to pass your classes in order to earn your high school diploma!

Sports Can Be More Demanding

If you’re thinking about joining Varsity at your high school, it’s important to know that sports at this level can be more demanding and less casual. You might need to up your game a little to earn and keep your spot on the team. However, participating in sports during your high school experience can pay off big time – it looks great on college applications and, if you’re one of the best, you may even earn a scholarship!

More Independence

One of the biggest changes new 9th graders will run into when it comes to high school is the additional independence you will have. While the school will absolutely call your parents if you “misbehave,” they might not necessarily alert them when you’re doing poorly in a class – at least not right away. Progress reports and report cards will still be sent home, but the burden of doing well in the class will be more set on your shoulders and your parents might only be consulted in serious cases.

You will be responsible for your studying, homework, and assignments. And it’s not just the high school that expects this from you – your parents do, too!

High school will be a different experience than middle school – there’s no doubt about that. And, for some students, it may be more difficult. However, knowing what to expect, understanding what is expected of you, and staying on top of your schoolwork will help ensure that it is an enjoyable experience!

Want to know what colleges are looking for out of high school students? Check out our free College Match tool to see where you could be accepted to with your current grades!

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