21 Totally Practical Tips for Middle School Survival

Junior high can be a tricky time for kids (and parents), but real-world advice for middle school can help.

Updated July 27, 2023
Middle school students

Leaving elementary school is a big change, and it's normal to feel a little bit unsure about the whole thing. Real-world advice for middle school can help, especially if you're the oldest kid in your family or the first in your group of friends to take this big step forward.

Middle school life comes with more academic and social responsibility, which can feel scary or challenging. Don't let all these changes stop you from having an awesome middle school experience.

Tips for the Middle School Social Scene

middle school students socializing

First off, remember that you're not alone. Every other kid at school is trying to figure out who they are.

You might worry you won't fit in or make many friends. It's totally normal to feel some anxiety about new social situations and friendships, so you're not alone. These tips can help you find loyal, fun friends you vibe with and have an awesome middle school experience.

Give Yourself an Introduction Tour to Meet New Friends

In many school districts, the middle school pulls from lots of surrounding elementary schools. You'll be meeting a ton of new people. While it's always comfortable to hang out with people you already know, being open and friendly to students you haven't met before is how you make new friends.

Don't be afraid to smile often and introduce yourself to new people. If you look and seem approachable, other kids will be more open to meeting you. Start conversations with simple questions about your classes or compliments on their style. Once you've met some new kids, introduce them to your old friends to widen your social circle.

Keep Your Old Friends Close (if Possible)

Don't get so caught up in new friendships you forget about your old friends, though. These are the kids you've known you for a long time, and you are friends for a reason. Introduce new friends to old friends and try to maintain both types of friendship to grow your social circle.

Help everyone stay connected by keeping something simple and matching on you all day, like wearing a specific color bracelet or using the exact same pens. Anytime one of you finds a new cool pen to use, grab extras and slip them into your friend's supplies when she walks by.

Quick Tip

It's also okay if your friends change during this time. You might find your friend group shifting, and that's totally normal too.

Hobby Up

School is a time of major change right now, but it's not the only thing. Your interests are probably changing too -- away from toys and kid stuff and toward more grown-up activities. The thing is, there can be a lull in between those things, and it's not always easy to know what to do with yourself. This is your chance to explore new interests.

Middle schools usually offer tons of extracurricular activities based on nearly anything you're into. Joining a club or other after school activity or sport can help you make new friends who have common interests and get to know more kids. These groups are also fun and help you find get comfortable in middle school.

Lean Into Kindness

The transition to middle school can be a little rocky, and kids are dealing with hormones and routines that have changed in a gigantic way. Not everyone is going to be their best self all the time. People will annoy you or even be downright mean once in a while. The trick here is to lean into kindness.

This means trying not to talk about people behind their backs or get sucked into drama. You know who you are, and you know how to be kind even when you might not feel like it.

Let Your Happy Self Shine

Try to keep a positive attitude, including body language and facial expressions, as you walk through the halls, and you'll feel more approachable to other kids. If someone you don't know introduces themselves, start up a conversation. Invite someone who is sitting alone to join you for lunch or ask someone with a common interest to join a club you like. What's the worst that can happen; you won't be friends? No big deal -- you won't be friends with everyone you ever meet, and that's okay.

Find Your Niche

In terms of classes, you might have more choices in middle school, which means you can pick a few classes you know you'll love. For example, if you like music, you can take a band, choir, or orchestra class. If you enjoy drawing, take an art class. If you like to build things, take a shop class. This confidence boost can help you through the whole day because you won't be bored in class, and you'll be doing something you're good at.

Love Your Unique Self

The best way to make friends is to be yourself. Instead of trying to impress people by acting or dressing in a manner you think they'll like, show everyone who you truly are by letting your personality shine through. Then you'll know the friends you make actually like being around you.

Quick Tip

Build your self-confidence by leaving little notes somewhere secret but frequently used like inside your closet or dresser drawers. Every day, write one great thing about yourself on a sticky note and hang it in your secret location. In no time, you'll have tons of reminders of how great you are, and you'll boost your confidence every day.

Essential Academic Advice for Middle School

middle school girl in class

Middle school classes will be more difficult and require more homework than elementary grades. Stay on top of your classes with these tips to help you thrive academically.

Be Heard

Even if it feels uncomfortable to talk in class, participating helps you and others understand the concepts better. Raise your hand and ask questions if you need clarification from the teacher and participate in games and discussions. When you fully understand what's been taught, it will be easier to get your homework done quickly and keep your grades up.

Get your friends involved in a little competition by keeping track of how many times you each speak up in class or get your homework done on time. Each of you can keep a little note with tally marks then compare your scores with each other at the end of the day to come up with an average for each person. Think of a fun prize the "losers" have to give the winner like carrying their books the next day or each buying them a treat at lunch.

Get Secretarial

Taking notes is a great way to remind yourself of what you learned. It also helps focus your attention during class, so you don't drift off into a daydream. Use class notes to make homework time faster or to help with studying for tests and big projects.

Quick Tip

Create a secret shorthand to make note taking faster and more fun, like using emojis for common terms or using the first letter of each syllable in a word instead of writing out long words. (Just make sure you remember how to read your own code.)

Give Homework Top Priority in Middle School

Even if you're busy with sports and other activities, your main job in life right now is to be a student. Set aside time every day for homework and do it in a place where you don't have any distractions. When you set yourself up for success, homework won't seem like such a drag.

Study Hard (Your Way)

Find a study style that works best for you and make it a habit. Make flashcards, join a study group, or read over your notes daily so the information can sink in. Make study groups more fun by turning them into a text challenge when you create a group text and take turns posting questions. Whoever answers first with the right answer wins a social media plug from the others.

Tests help teachers and parents see if you're actually learning what's being taught, but don't get too stressed about tests because they don't necessarily make or break your future.

Talk to Your Parents and Teachers if You Need Help

If you are struggling with any part of any class, don't wait until you're so far behind that catching up seems impossible. There are many places you can go for help. Ask questions in class, talk to your teacher after class, ask your friends for help, or see if your parents can set you up with a private tutor. You can find homework help from reliable online sources, but it might be best to look for local help first.

Keep It All Together (We Promise It's Possible)

Between new classes, more work, extracurricular activities, and your social life, you're responsible for a lot more of your life than ever before. Get organized and stay organized throughout the year, and life won't seem so overwhelming.

Put Notes in Their Place

Keep notes for each class separate from other classes by using a different color spiral notebook for every class or one large binder with dividers for each class. If you're using spiral notebooks, have a matching folder for each class to keep all the notes and assignments so you can look them over before tests.

Quick Tip

Avoid any awful spills in crowded hallways by stretching an elastic headband vertically and one horizontally over the middle of your notebook or binder. This way if you fall, nothing can spill out and slide down the hall.

Plan Ahead

Some schools give you an academic planner to get organized. If yours doesn't, you can find them at most stores, sometimes called an agenda. You can also make one by printing calendar pages by the day, week, or month and stapling them inside a fun folder.

If you've got a phone, use the calendar to keep track of your entire life. Include homework assignments, tests, project due dates, games, ceremonies, and social activities all in one place. When you've got it all together, you'll have less stress and more time for fun.

Prepare Yourself With Organized Supplies

Make sure you go to class with all the supplies you'll need for that class. Use one shelf of your locker or a compartment in your backpack for extra supplies. Then transfer a few pens, pencils, and erasers to your binder as soon as you run out so you'll never be caught unprepared. Ask your favorite teacher to stash some of your extra supplies in his or her classroom, so you'll always know where to find what you need.

Keep It Clean

The time between classes is short, so keeping your locker clean helps you quickly find what you need and get to class on time. Pick a place to keep materials for each class and put things back in that spot every time. Buy locker shelves and organizational containers to help you keep it all together.

If you've got hooks inside your locker, use drawstring bags to separate supplies for each class. Put your book, notebook, and pens for each class in a separate bag. Then when it's time to switch classes, you can grab the bag you need and hang up the one from your last class.

Get Your Challenge On

middle school friends

Middle school can be lots of fun, but it also comes with new and complicated feelings. Keep your challenges in check with these helpful tips for 7th graders, 8th graders, and everyone else.

Beat Bullying

Experiencing bullying can make school a real drag. If you're being bullied, keep in mind there are ways to stop the situation or make your days more tolerable. Use counselors, parents, and teachers to help you figure out what to do if you are bullied. Talk with your friends and see if they can help you get through these tough times.

Know That Crushes Change

Chances are you have a pretty strong opinion of who's cute in your school. These feelings are perfectly normal. Middle school crushes, friendships, and relationships are constantly changing, so just remember to keep an open mind. Although rejection feels awful at the moment, you can move on from these feelings, especially when you've got an active social life full of other people to occupy your time.

Middle school loves aren't meant to last, although they sometimes do. Try not to take things too personally if a romance doesn't work out how you hoped.

Don't Do Things That Make You Uncomfortable

As you all gain more independence, you may hear about other kids drinking, smoking, taking drugs, or engaging in other risky behaviors. Some of your friends may even ask you to join in. Giving in to peer pressure can affect the rest of your life, so think twice before agreeing to something that makes you uncomfortable. If friends are pressuring you to do something you know is wrong for you, follow your gut instead.

Embrace the Change

You might feel self-conscious as your body grows and develops, but remember, everyone else is changing too. Taking care of yourself is important, and paying attention to personal hygiene by showering regularly, wearing clean clothes, and using deodorant can help make these changes less embarrassing. Talk with your close friends or a trusted adult about any concerns you have with your body, and keep in mind your uniqueness is what makes you special.

Understand Locker Room Etiquette

Gym class is leveling up too. This might be your first time regularly undressing in front of other kids your age, so it's normal to feel a bit uncomfortable. Many of the other kids might feel just like you do and probably aren't even paying attention to you because they're so worried about how they are feeling.

If you're very uncomfortable, you may be able to change in a closed bathroom stall or learn to keep a towel on as you dress and undress. If you can't quite bring yourself to brave the showers, keep some cleansing wipes, deodorant, and dry shampoo in your locker so you can still clean up after all that sweating.

Middle School Survival Tips for Parents

pre-teens with parents

Kids aren't the only ones who might find the transition to middle school a little challenging. There are some ways for parents to shine during this time:

  • Empathize and remember. Middle school isn't always the easiest time, and if your kid is acting out, do your best to see that from a place of empathy. Think back to middle school and how you felt at this time.
  • Help kids explore new interests. Hobbies change during these years, and it's important for kids to get a chance to explore what's out there. This can be huge for their sense of self.
  • Grant more responsibility. Kids are taking on bigger tasks at school, and they can do that at home too. If you feel comfortable, explore giving them more autonomy and independence.
  • Be kind to yourself. Times of transition can be stressful for everyone, and it's normal to question how you're doing or feel like you aren't as patient as you could be. Give yourself some positive feedback for the things you're doing right during this tricky moment.

Surviving and Thriving in Middle School

Whether the challenges of middle school and junior high are academic or social, take control of your experience and make it great. The very best advice for middle school is simple: stay true to yourself. Use these tips to make middle school a place where you thrive, not just survive.

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21 Totally Practical Tips for Middle School Survival