RISE Back-to-School Tips for Students and Families

COVID-19 ResponseResources

As the 2020-21 school year begins, we recognize that this year will be unlike any other as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Safety precautions, new school policies, and hybrid and remote learning will create new anxieties, questions, and opportunities for students, families, and educators.

At RISE, we partner with public high schools across Connecticut to ensure all students succeed during high school and beyond. As we welcome students back to school, we are excited to share resources and tips that may support families and high school students as they prepare for the new school year.

Tips for All High School Students

Many students are returning to school after six months of distance learning and summer vacation. Here are some tips to help high school students return to school in new remote and hybrid formats:

High school is one of the most important and exciting times for all students! Your experiences in high school will be enhanced when you find the right balance between schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and social interactions with friends and peers.

Sharina Jimenez, RISE On-Track Coordinator, Brien McMahon High School

  • Establish Daily Routines: Create and stick to the same daily routine on the days that you are at school and at home. Set your alarm clock, eat nutritious meals, complete your schoolwork, take breaks, stay connected with family and friends, limit your screen time, and get outside and enjoy the fresh air!
  • Stay Up to Date on Your Assignments: Log into PowerSchool regularly to stay organized and check your grades, missing assignments, and deadlines. Avoid the end-of-quarter scramble to turn in work. Contact your teacher if you have questions about your grades or assignments.
  • Stay Connected and Get Involved: Plan virtual study sessions and stay involved in clubs and sports teams as they meet virtually and in person. Make new friends and start building your resume (e.g., extracurriculars, community service), which will open doors for postsecondary opportunities.
  • Get to Know your Teachers and School Staff: Build relationships with your new teachers; they want to hear from you and get to know you. Don’t hesitate to reach out, they are there to help you even if they don’t see you every day.
  • Reach Out If You Need Support: Reach out to your school counselor and other school support staff if you need to talk to someone. These are stressful times and you are not alone. Adults at your school are ready, willing, and able to support you. 

Tips for Grade 9 Students

Freshman year is one of the most important years in high school; students who promote on time to sophomore year are much more likely to graduate from high school prepared for college and career success. Grade 9 can be equal parts scary and exciting. Here are some tips specifically for freshmen:

  • Check PowerSchool: Use PowerSchool every day to track how you’re doing in all of your classes and keep track of deadlines. Download the PowerSchool app here.
  • Join a Club or Sports Team: Look for new ways to make friends and stay active. Get involved in your new school community and ask about virtual and in-person clubs, community service, and sports opportunities!
  • Understand that Attendance Matters: Show up for school every day, whether in person or online. Students who are chronically absent in Grade 9 are 72% less likely to graduate on-time. Learn about your school’s attendance policy for in-school and virtual learning, and make a plan to engage in school every day. 
  • Recognize that Credits Count: Understand your school’s requirements to promote to 10th grade. In high school, grades and credits count more than ever. Keep in mind that you must earn passing grades in order to earn credit (in most schools this is above a 60), and that you must earn enough credits to promote to sophomore year and graduate within four years. 
  • Reach Out to Your Classmates: It is a great idea to have a friend in each of your classes. You may not know a lot of the people sitting next to you, but this is a great chance to make new friends. Nervous about starting a conversation? Try giving a compliment to start one up.

Tips for Grade 12 Students

Senior year is another critical year as students bring their high school experience to a strong close and develop and pursue their postsecondary plans. Here are some tips and resources for seniors:

This is not the senior year you imagined, but with focus, hard work, and the support of teachers, counselors, and coaches, you can make a great plan for after high school. Being organized and on top of deadlines will be extra important this year, so take time as soon as you can to learn about what you’ll need to do, and on what timelines, to stay on track.

Sam Purdy, Network Learning Manager

  • Set College and Career Goals: Meet with your counselor, research colleges and career pathways, and build your resume. Balancing the college application process and senior year can be overwhelming. Set goals and deadlines for the first quarter to stay on top of your work.
  • Take (and/or Retake) the SATs/ACTs: Be sure to take the SAT/ACT, and/or retake the exams to boost your schools. With the COVID-19 school closures in spring 2020, many students were unable to take standardized tests. Check school websites for standardized testing waivers and The College Board for updated SAT testing calendars in your area.
  • Identify Colleges: If you plan to attend college next year, identify several reach, match, and safety schools using tools such as Naviance. Take into account admissions requirements, your interests, as well as the expected cost of attendance and any COVID-19 related application and tuition changes. 
  • Get in Touch With Admissions Offices: Learn more about colleges and universities that interest you. Your school may also be hosting college representative visits through virtual meetings with the people who are often reading your college application. You can even schedule interviews and virtual college tours by checking in with admissions offices or visiting youvisit.com.
  • Keep Track of your Grades: End your high school career in good standing! Senior year grades are just as important as your grades in Grades 9 through 11; now is the chance to bring up your GPA or maintain your hard-earned grades and stay up to date on assignments and classes. 
  • Ask Questions and Do Research: Map out your postsecondary plan. The college application and career exploration processes can be overwhelming. Reach out, ask questions and do research. RISE has compiled a FAQ related to the college application process during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tips for Families

This year is filled with many unknowns but if one thing is certain, it is that with a mixture of support, routine, and flexibility, parents and caring adults can support their kids as they start school no matter what this school year brings. Here are some tips and resources for high school parents and guardians:

  • Set Daily Routines: Help students set a new school-year routine to attend and engage in class regularly (read more on the importance of routines here).
  • Create a Shared Space and Family Calendar: Help create a space where you child can complete work while they are not at school and keep track using a shared daily family calendar so your family can share technology and space every day.
  • Make a Plan: Support your family’s health and well-being. The CDC recommends parents make a plan and stay up to date to help keep families healthy. Read more information here on how to be flexible and support your child during the upcoming school year.
  • Stay up-to-Date with Your School District: Contact your district if you need a device, internet access or have school opening questions. Visit your school district’s website and social media accounts to stay connected.
  • Access PowerSchool for Parents: Ask your child about their classes and check their grades by logging into PowerSchool. If your child is not earning passing grades, they are at risk of not earning credit for the class and may not be able to graduate on time.
  • Reach out to Teachers, Administrators, and Counselors: Know that school staff want your child to succeed as much as you do. Learn the best tools to contact staff at your school, and don’t hesitate to reach out when you have questions or concerns!