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Podcast Episode 1: 3 Main Differences Between Middle School & High School

Posted by Laura Burgess on Feb 24, 2022 2:02:04 PM

The differences between middle school and high school might surprise you. 

The biggest part of our job in the admissions office at Tabor is to meet with families who are searching for the right high school. Although we represent a boarding school, our conversations with families about what the next step of their student’s educational journey might look like cover a range of topics because there are many factors to consider. One thing that many students wonder about as their middle school years draw to a close is, “What will high school actually be like?” Many of them have some expectations based on things they have heard from family friends or seen in movies. 


To try to get some more helpful insight, I sat down with four Tabor students just finishing their ninth grade year and asked them to reflect on two essential questions: what are the main differences between middle school and high school, and what did they think high school would be like versus how it turned out? They had a great deal of insight to share about the main differences between middle school and high school, their expectations, and any different approaches they anticipate in their sophomore year. They noticed one essential difference from the way the student environment in high school is often portrayed in movies: students in different grades are actually friends, and older students are actually nice to younger students. Each one of them intends to be part of making sure this is what students experience at Tabor. Since Tabor is also a boarding school, they shared observations and things that surprised them about their adjustment to such a unique experience

Our conversation turned into the first episode of The Education Portal podcast, a new initiative from Tabor Academy. 

Here is a preview of their insights: 

1. Relationships with friends and teachers are different.

A common theme of the conversation was the nature of their friendships and likewise, the close relationships with teachers and other trusted adults they have met in high school. They found the friendships to be deeper and more diverse, and that it was easier to make friends with different interests than in middle school. The students were surprised to find that they enjoyed friendships with students with whom they actually didn’t share any common interests such as clubs or sports. They found that the high school environment was more conducive to finding and exploring friendships in different places. Especially because Tabor is a boarding school, they were able to make friends from backgrounds, and even countries, they weren’t expecting! 

They also found that their teachers were more relatable as people. Since Tabor is a boarding school, students see their teachers often outside the classroom and even get to know their families and pets. They are easily accessible for extra help with assignments or just overall wisdom and guidance. The students share more about these realizations and how it benefited them in the episode.

2. You learn to manage free time and independence.

One of the main differences that all four students noted was the structure in the schedule. They found that they weren’t rushing quickly from one class to the next like at their middle schools. They enjoyed having free time during the day, being able to have a change of scenery with classes in different buildings, and being able to make some choices with what they did during their free time. Not to mention, at Tabor, the harborside campus features uniquely beautiful scenery! While they often spent it studying or preparing for the classes ahead, they were also able to socialize with friends, get fresh air or a snack, or meet with teachers. 

They shared some of the lessons they learned with their free time throughout the year, such as how to self-manage and balance social time, academic time, and even a bit of quiet time to themselves. The students noted that they will remember those lessons as they head into the year ahead.

3. Trying new activities is awesome, and also a learning experience. 

Each trimester, Tabor students sign up for an after-school activity. We call them co-curriculars. The students all tried new activities such as ice hockey, crew, squash, sailing, tennis, digital music, and more. While it may sound like you need experience with these activities, these students share what it was like to try something brand new for the very first time and how it brought them closer to their peers. They also gained relationships with an additional set of adults within the community who quickly became trusted mentors. This is a unique advantage of a boarding school. Participating in activities is an important part of what we ask our students to do with their time at Tabor, and as these students’ experiences demonstrate, there is significant value. 

Expectations vs. reality

It was exciting to hear these students say that their high school experience so far (while not without challenges) has been more than they dreamed it would be. Curious to learn more about the expectations of high school compared to the reality? Wondering about their tips? Eager to hear what they would do differently? Check out the first episode of The Education Portal podcast!

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Topics: Student Life, Admissions, Podcast, Transitions