Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes: Tips from Our Top EF Coaches for Students in Transition

Jesse Ramcharan
April 26, 2023
min read
Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes: Tips from Our Top EF Coaches for Students in Transition

Here at Applerouth, we believe that students who can change themselves for the better can change the world. It’s why we strive to build better learners for life. We know that successful growth and transition from one of life’s chapters to the next requires positive self-belief. Take one of our recent ‘Good Luck’ emails we sent to our students scheduled to take the April 15 ACT. We imparted three practical ways for students to improve their self-belief heading into the exam:

  • Practice self-affirmations: This is a great way to train your brain to believe anything you want it to. Choose a positive affirmation to boost your confidence.
  • Practice self-care: This can help to cultivate success. When we take care of ourselves, we mirror that self-respecting action in our thought patterns.
  • Use a thought diary: Writing out your thoughts is very helpful for challenging any negative ones – before AND during testing.

Test day or any day, these tips could serve students well. As we look towards the end of the semester (how is it time for that already?!) and summer - and the changes it can bring - we wanted to share some advice collected from a few of our top Executive Functioning (EF) Coaches for students transitioning from one chapter to the next. Whether your students are making the leap from elementary school to middle school or from high school to college and beyond, we hope your students will find them helpful and maybe even inspiring.

EF Coach Katherina Fiege suggests proper time management is key to helping students balance difficult days with the down time that is crucial to their well-being:

“My advice would be, in terms of transitioning from elementary to high school, to brace for an increased workload and longer days, as well as more noise and stress and a difference in social interaction (puberty can put different things onto the forefront of the mind!). Many students are over-scheduled and need to take care to get enough leisure time. Time management becomes essential. Taking care of one’s mental health becomes extremely important.”

Romella Husain advises her students to lean on the use of tools, like planners, to best manage more complicated schedules:

“Transitioning from elementary to middle school is a challenge to many students. For one thing, they are moving from having one main teacher to now having at least seven! This means seven different ways of teaching and learning, and seven different places where relevant information (like what is the homework, or when is the due date) is posted. The best way to adapt to this challenge is by having some way to keep account of your assignments. An agenda book, where you write down your assignments is a great way to keep organized. Some students like the paper versions, but there are electronic agenda books and calendars, too, and some kids do better with these.

In the same vein, when you first go to middle school or high school, pay close attention to where your teacher is posting their homework assignments, due dates and upcoming quizzes, and then make it your habit to look there regularly to make note of the important details.”

“Try not to fall behind at the beginning; it’s much harder to catch up,” Stephanie Klein reminds her students. “Ask questions early. Try to make friends, or at least acquaintances, in your classes so you have people you can go to for questions on homework, clarification, or pair up with as study partners.”

Dr. Jed Applerouth reminds his students, “let go of what you know, what worked in the prior context, and embrace the new context, with its potentially greater academic demands.”

Flexibility, resourcefulness, and task-management are fundamental to success at times of transition, especially for the older students who will begin to see more complex assignments. Jed continues:

“Maybe you needed an hour a night to manage your homework demands, and suddenly the load has doubled. Maybe your best subject is suddenly your most challenging subject - you have to be flexible and be willing to recruit additional resources to get the help you need. Learn the where and when and how of getting help in the new context. You may have to juggle more assignments, manage longer assignments, term papers, group projects. You'll need to learn how to use partial deadlines that live in the calendar - all-nighters aren't going to work. Longer form projects demand more planning.”

On transitioning to college, Jed offers the following advice to students suddenly faced with new independence and responsibilities:

“This is a special transition, as you will be much more independent - leaving behind your support network and having to craft a new one. Nobody looking over your shoulder, nobody checking in to see if you are tracking to be on time with your assignments. The transition to college is a major step towards adulthood, independence, autonomy. Not only are the academic demands different, but you have to be on top of other out of class obligations like signing up for classes at the right time, signing up for housing, working with the registrar, and dealing with the financial aid office. More than ever, you need to write things down. Have systems - alarms, reminders - which ping you at the right time to remind you of upcoming deadlines.”

Jed explains that when it comes to students with executive functioning challenges or other learning differences, navigating more complex systems of support and building healthy time-management habits are crucial:

“Students with EF challenges need to be ready to up-resource to find help: the student learning center, student academic support, learning how to use office hours, time with TAs and the professors, working with tutors… the resources are there, new college students just need to know where and when to find them. There's so much unscheduled time in college - it's a departure from high school in that way - so students need to learn how to impose some structure on that time and get into a routine and develop good habits. A good bit of that sea of unscheduled time has to be productive time, managing readings, assignments, projects. Breaking things down into smaller pieces, having goals for individual study and work sessions becomes more important. Finding good routines is key, like where and when and with whom (if anyone) do you study? The routines may change based on your schedule and where you physically are on campus each day. No matter where you find yourself, using your breaks well is a major part of success in college.”

We wish you and your students all the best in the ch-ch-changes to come.

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