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Are you nervous about starting high school? How do you deal with it?
-- From Aamina, 12

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Bigger, Faster, More
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From the Mentors
Some differences between middle school and high school are obvious right away, and some will pop up days or weeks down the road. Fortunately, you can prepare yourself for the bigger changes by knowing what to expect and having a plan to deal.

Size matters
When you made the move from elementary school to middle school, you were probably shocked to see how BIG everything had become. Chances are, you're going to be equally impressed by your high school. Just as several elementary schools "fed into" your middle school, your high school might be bulging with students from two or more different middle schools. The result? More people, bigger building-or buildings, plural!

Different types of classes are often held in different parts of the school. For instance, there might be a science wing for the chemistry, physics, and biology labs. Because of this, your classes will probably be spread out all over the school, and you might have to step quickly to get to each period on time.

If your high school doesn't provide a map to help you navigate during your first weeks as a freshman, why not make your own? Be sure to include any special landmarks (such as your locker, the restroom, or an outdoor courtyard). Ask teachers and older students if they can suggest shortcuts, especially if find yourself constantly late for class.

  For a fun way to get used to the idea of getting around a big school, play
  School Daze Crazy Maze!
In and out, back and forth
In middle school, you may have gotten used to your classes being longer or in "blocks," but most high schools have shorter class periods. In other words, instead of having five things on your daily schedule, there might be eight or more! This can be tough mentally because your mind has to switch gears more often, but most kids say the real problem is physical.

For instance, you may not have time to get back to your locker after every class, so you'll need to carry your textbooks and notebooks for several classes at once. In the first weeks of school, take some time to figure out a system that will help make sure you have what you need when you need it, but will also save you from carrying around eight books at a time! As soon as you get your class schedule, sit down with the map and work out routes between classes. How far do you have to go to get from English to math? Will you have time to go to your locker, or will you have to carry both sets of books? Knowing these things ahead of time will save you a lot of stress and worry.

More people, more noise, more crazy!
More students also means that hallways, stairways, the cafeteria, and other common areas will be more crowded than you're used to. That can cause lots of noise and confusion, especially when it makes you feel like you're Nemo trying to swim upstream against a bunch of sharks! If you find yourself getting anxious or confused in these environments, talk to an adult about how you can relax and focus. Chances are, you'll get used to the chaos after a few weeks.

It's important to recognize that in a bigger, more crowded school, your belongings are more likely to get lost or stolen. Make sure your name is on all your books and notebooks, as well as your backpack. You may feel lost without your iPod or cell phone by your side, but the less you carry valuable things around with you (that's what lockers are for, or the concept of leaving something at home), the safer they'll be.

You've heard it before, but it really is true
If you're concerned about getting up on time, practice setting your alarm clock in the final weeks of summer. Get used to waking up early and allowing enough time to shower, get dressed, and eat breakfast before you have to leave the house. You might find that it's easier to adjust to the faster pace of high school.

Of course, you should always eat a good breakfast, too. Your brain will be fuzzy if you don't get the energy and nutrition you need, and you won't be able to focus on your classwork if you're thinking about your rumbling stomach.

In the next section, Small Fish-Again, we talk about how to deal with older students.


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High School, Hollywood Style
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