Preparing Boys for Life.

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Skills to nail the transition to high school
Luqman Kolade, Tim Lengel '07, and Brian Long

Eighth-grade graduation brings the promise of exciting challenges and responsibilities. The transition to high school offers students more freedom and opportunities for leadership, but the new environment can sometimes be daunting; after all, ninth-graders show up to campus facing the challenges of a new school, new friends, new rules, and new expectations. It can be a heavy load for teenagers who are just beginning to explore who they are and what they’d like to become. While some students may harbor quiet worries about all of the challenges facing them, we’ve found that students who arrive with the following skillsets nail the high school transition. 

  • Self-Advocacy    

Perhaps the most important skill for rising ninth-graders is mastering the art of asking for help. While high school means more and more exciting opportunities to explore, students’ schedules become busier.  Building on the autonomy and responsibility taught throughout middle school, ninth grade students are expected to schedule review sessions and let teachers know when they have a conflict. If students can learn how to write professional emails and proactively communicate with teachers, they’ll be best prepared for the rigors of the high school transition.

  • Organization

In the midst of so much change, we often find that students who can bring some measure of organization to the delightful chaos of the high school transition have a leg up on their peers. Organization takes many forms, and while it’s important to continue to take strong, clear notes and to store them in class-specific binders, schools have turned to digital tools to help keep students on top of their work. 

Schools increasingly employ the use of learning management systems (Google Classroom, Canvas, Schoology, etc.), which allow teachers to assign and sometimes grade work via a common application. While some middle schools use these tools, almost all high schools do. Students and parents who invest some family time into learning how these systems work are better able to keep track of assignments and work efficiently at home. 

  • Time Management

Another essential element in the journey to high school success is the ability to manage one’s time. Students who can balance schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and the social aspects of the high school experience, all while making sure they get enough sleep, will find themselves far less stressed than their peers. Whether it be through using a planner or establishing a consistent routine of when homework gets done, being deliberate about how time is spent will position students to not only do well academically but will also eliminate the stress that can come from feeling pressed for time.  

To set themselves up for success in high school, students should strive to master these skills. The Haverford School's Study Skills+ co-ed summer course can help your son or daughter with the transition to high school. Learn more at


These three educators share 35 years of experience teaching in independent middle and high schools. As classroom teachers and coaches, they prioritize a relational approach to holistic education.

Brian Long completed his undergraduate degree at Villanova University and is nearing completion of a master’s of Liberal Arts in History at the University of Pennsylvania. At The Haverford School, Brian teaches ninth grade history and 12th grade finance. He also coaches the distance running program, having run on the Villanova track and cross-country teams.

Luqman Kolade received his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s in Writing from St. Joseph’s University. Over the course of Luqman’s 15-year career, he has taught English at almost every level between the middle and high schools. Currently, at Haverford, he teaches ninth, 11th, and 12th grades, while also head coaching both the winter and spring track teams.  

Timothy Lengel '07 received his undergraduate degree from Williams College, where he majored in history. He is nearing completion of a master’s in Liberal Arts in History from the University of Pennsylvania. Timothy has taught for almost a decade; at Haverford, he teaches junior- and senior-level history courses. In addition to teaching, Timothy is the head cross-country coach.