How Middle School Changes for Students

Teacher helping child with ICT skills
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"What is middle school like?"

Has your child asked that question to you? The middle school years are exciting ones, as your child grows and develops into a teenager. But middle school is also a time of significant change, and kids don't always know what to expect.

How Middle School Is Different

Here's how to help your future middle schooler understand what the experience might be like, and how middle school will be different from elementary school.

  • Middle Schools Are Bigger: Middle schools are often larger than elementary schools. This can be a little daunting to a child. Hallways are usually wider, to make room for lockers, and gymnasiums often have locker rooms, another change from elementary school. Even the cafeteria may be more substantial or appear larger than the one your child was used to in elementary school.
  • Middle Schools Have Lockers: Your tween probably didn't have a locker in elementary school, but he will in middle school. Lockers are necessary as the children will most likely change classes throughout the day, and they need a central location to store their belongings and books.
  • Your Child Will Have More Than One Teacher: In middle school, children often change classes throughout the day. That means your child could end up with several teachers, as well as a gym instructor. This can be quite a change to a child who only had one teacher a year in elementary school.
  • Gym Class Will Be Different: In middle school, the PE experience may be slightly different than in elementary school. Some schools separate the genders for the gym, and at many schools, the students are required to wear a school gym uniform. Dressing for gym can cause anxiety in a tween, especially when one is shy about his or her body. Your child may be assigned a separate gym locker to store gym clothes, soap, and deodorant.
  • There Will Be More to Do: One of the upsides of middle school is the clubs, sports teams, and other offered organizations. Encourage your tween to join something that interests him.
  • Friendships Can Change in Middle School: Friendships often change in middle school, as children develop new interests and meet new people. It can be difficult when a friendship your child has had for years suddenly disintegrates. Encourage your tween to meet new people in middle school and try to keep old friends, too. But resist the urge to force a friendship on your child. Instead, let things take their natural course.
  • Bullies Are Common in Middle School: Unfortunately, bullying tends to peak during the middle school years, and your child may encounter a bully from time to time. Girls can have an especially difficult time in middle school as cliques exclude them or have trouble with frenemies and mean girls. Relational aggression is common among middle school girls, and teachers and school administrators may not even know it's happening.
  • There Are More Responsibilities in Middle School: Children entering middle school should know that they will have more responsibilities than they did in elementary school. Teachers will expect your child to complete homework assignments, study independently at home, and stay on top of the materials. Also, middle school students are responsible for getting to class on time, bringing their lunch or lunch money to the school, and getting to the school bus on time. Excuses in middle school don't go very far, in other words.
  • Expectations Are Greater in Middle School: Even children in middle school begin feeling pressure from teachers and parents to excel for college, or placement in honors courses in middle school. Sometimes the pressure can be overwhelming. In addition, students in middle school may be placed in classes according to their academic performance.
  • Dating Is Common in Middle School: At this age, there's no getting around it. Children will begin to pair off, and peer pressure to date will be the norm. Hand-holding, kissing, and making out may be something your child sees for the first time in middle school.
  • High School Courses May Be Offered: Some middle school children may be able to take high school courses, such as geometry or a foreign language.
2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Wang X, Zhang Y, Hui Z, et al. The Mediating Effect of Regulatory Emotional Self-Efficacy on the Association between Self-Esteem and School Bullying in Middle School Students: A Cross-Sectional StudyInt J Environ Res Public Health. 2018;15(5):991. doi:10.3390/ijerph15050991

  2. Aizpitarte A, Atherton OE, Zheng LR, Alonso-Arbiol I, Robins RW. Developmental Precursors of Relational Aggression From Late Childhood Through AdolescenceChild Dev. 2019;90(1):117-126. doi:10.1111/cdev.13166

By Jennifer O'Donnell
Jennifer O'Donnell holds a BA in English and has training in specific areas regarding tweens, covering parenting for over 8 years.