Starting High School

Quick links

Our top tips!

  • Talk to an older sibling or friend
    Everyone knows that starting high school can be tough. By talking to someone who has already been through high school, you will see that your worries are completely normal and most people were feeling the same way as you. They will also be able to give you useful tips.
  • Make sure you know how to get there!

    Your high school is likely to be in a different place from your primary school so make sure you know how to get there. Ask a parent or someone else to help you plan out the route and go with you on the first few days to familiarise yourself; this will help you feel comfortable.

  • Don’t worry!
    Everyone who starts high school finds the whole experience daunting. Try not to worry and always remember everyone is in the same boat so there is no shame in feeling nervous. This is completely normal.

So... you're starting high school?

Starting high school – also called secondary school – is a huge milestone. It means you are really starting to grow up and that you’re getting further through your time in school, which will be over before you know it! Starting high school will probably involve taking a lot more responsibility over your education and your life than you will have had to in the past.

At some point in the next few years, you will even be asked to think about what subjects you want to keep studying and which you would like to stop doing. This allows you to start focusing on what you are most interested in and consider which path you will want to take after high school and beyond. See our page on thinking ahead for more on this.

Right now, though, your focus should be on that initial responsibility that you have to take. You won’t be in just one classroom anymore with your teacher looking after your books. You will need to learn how to be organised so you know where you need to be, when you need to be there and what you need to bring with you.

You’ll also need to learn more about being prepared so that you have all that you need for the day with you. Do you need your sports kit? What lessons do you have? What books do you need to take? These are all questions that you will need to start asking yourself as you prepare for each day at your new school.

What if I don't make any friends?

Before you start at your new school, ask around at your current school to see if anyone else will be going to the same high school as you. You might want to go to school together on your first day, or sit with each other at lunch. Having someone that you know already with you as you settle in can help to ease your nerves and make you feel more relaxed.

Remember that everyone is in the same boat as you. Starting high school means meeting many new people; there may even be hundreds of students in your year group. They will all be new to this school and will be meeting everyone for the first time just like you are.

If you’re someone who struggles to make friends, finding one person you get along well with (such as someone you sit next to during a lesson) can be very helpful. If you’re feeling up to it, ask them if you can spend the lunch break with them. Ask them if they’ve met anyone else yet. If you feel yourself struggling, reach out to parents or teachers for some guidance and support. You could even reach out to us about this.

If you feel like you are struggling to make friends, remember that it won’t always be this way. Sometimes it just takes a bit of time to find the right people!

How should I prepare for each day at school?

Prepare your uniform

It is the simple things that make life much easier. One of the things you can do to prepare for each day is to make sure that your uniform is ready the night before. You will probably find that you need to change your uniform each day to stop it becoming smelly or dirty. Preparing it the night before saves the morning worries!

Think about what you need

Taking time out of your day to think about what you need and preparing it ahead of time will take a lot of stress (and trouble) out of the day. Look at your timetable to see what books or kit you need to take. Also, make sure that you do your homework in good time! Teachers will give detention if you are not prepared.

Think about getting there

This is something that you will need to think about at the start, but as you keep going to your high school, you will need to think about it much less. When you start, plan a route (and maybe even try it out a few times), and travel to school with a friend if you can. Make sure you know how long it will take so you aren’t late!

Remember that it is on you!

You will be responsible for making sure you are prepared. Teachers are expecting you to be responsible and will punish you if you are not. You won’t be able to keep relying on your parents to make sure you have everything ready – they probably won’t appreciate last-minute requests for clean uniform or cooking ingredients!

What do I need to bring?

If your new high school doesn’t offer you much guidance on what you should pack for your first day, it can feel intimidating. Often, primary schools will provide most resources for you, so suddenly having to be responsible for this yourself can feel strange. The following things can be useful to have:

  • Stationery, such as HB pencils, black or blue pens, coloured pencils, highlighters, rulers, rubbers, glue sticks and a pencil sharpener.
  • Specialist equipment, such as a protractor, calculator, and drawing compass for maths lessons.
  • Water bottle
  • Packed lunch
  • Notebook or pad of paper for taking notes

Your school should provide you with the exercise books and textbooks that you will need. However, they may give you a list of extra equipment that you need to bring as well.

Make sure you also have a suitable bag (with 2 straps) to carry it all!

I think I might need some help... what do I do?

Starting high school can be scary and stressful. There are plenty of people to talk to if you want to talk about your nerves or any issues you are having. You should always reach out and get help if you need it. You can talk to adults at home or at your school, your friends or our mentors to get support.

Get support!
Don’t let the school blues bring you down, and get support if you need it.
Speak to us

You don’t need to struggle on your own. The chances are that most people will feel exactly the same way as you, no matter how confident they might seem. If you are struggling, speak to our friendly mentors – they will listen, help you and give you advice.

Speak to an adult

There are plenty of adults who understand what starting at a new school is like – they have done the same, even if it was a long time ago! There are teachers and counsellors at school, and family members can help too.

Speak to a friend

Reach out to your friends if you are struggling and they can keep an extra eye out for you. They are in the same position and will probably be feeling the same as you – you can look out for each other.

What if the work is too much for me to handle?

During the transition to high school, you may be concerned that you’ll be given more homework or responsibility than you’re used to. The transition can be difficult, but your teachers will be experienced in helping students to manage the change in workload.

Homework will usually be introduced slowly, beginning with quick and simple pieces of work once or twice a week. As you become more settled, teachers will start setting more work and it will probably get more difficult too. If you find some of the work too difficult, don’t panic! Teachers won’t expect you to be able to do everything perfectly straight away.

If you do feel yourself struggling with the workload, stay behind after a class and mention it to your teacher. Explain how you are feeling to to them – they will always want to help you out and can spend some time explaining difficult topics to you.

High schools often give students a weekly planner for writing down homework that needs to be completed. Make sure you write these down and highlight them if it will help you to remember what you need to do. If your school doesn’t give you a planner, you can buy a cheap one from Amazon or any stationery shop, or get organised with our guide to creating a study timetable.