The Separation Of Elite And Average
During middle school, students begin to divide into the types of students that will define them, for the most part, for the rest of their schooling careers. The actions taken during this part of a students life play a significant role in determining their success in high-school, thus college, and the rest of their lives. Students who were a little bit ahead of their peers start to pull away even more. Students who are a little bit behind their peers start to fall behind even more. Gradations in talent between students starts to truly become visible and magnify at this state in a student's life.
The Overarching Goal Of Middle School
During these critical years, the one thing a student should try to figure out is what they are truly passionate about and the subjects they excel. This stage of a student's life in the precursor that comes before the specialization of high-school. This part of their journey should be an exploration where they sample different sports, classes, and clubs with the intention of finding the things that click with them so that they can start to prioritize those things as they enter high school.
In their first year and a half of middle school, they should focus on exploration. Weeding out what they definitely don't want to do and leaving in what they might want to do, or simply things they haven't tried to do yet. Once a student has truly figured out what they don't want to do, and has narrowed their focus to one or two disciplines (let's say Social Sciences and Humanities), there is a little bit of a switch in mindset where instead of exploring, they start to specialize in those fields while still keeping an open mind for other avenues they haven't ruled out entirely.
The Tipping Point
If a student has built up the disciplines from elementary school that we outlined in the last post, they should be in a good position where they can easily rank in the top 10% of their class by the time they enter middle school. If they haven’t, it’s okay. They just need to work a little harder to get there, but regardless, the rules presented below still apply.
Now if a student is already at the top of their class coming out of elementary school, they’ll have the opportunity to truly widen the gap between exceptional and average in their middle school years. In most middle schools, exceptional students are typically placed in higher level math and english classes, and are paired with peers who are also at the top of their class. This will allow for some healthy competition between the students and help improve everyone’s abilities as they create an upward looping effect of performance where one student’s positive results encourages another student to work harder in order to achieve the same, if not better, results. This makes all the students better and starts to truly accelerate the gap between the students at the top, and those in the middle or below.
These environments is where the true divergence happens between those who are ultimately successful in getting into elite schools and those who are not. The students in the more advanced classes start to separate themselves from the rest of their grade and create a bubble of high achievers who compound success after academic success in an upward cycle performance. This gets put into overdrive in high-school as the high achievers themselves split up into the super high achievers and the "regular" high achievers once classes like honors classes and AP classes are introduced as classes students can take. With time, the cream rises to the top in a viscous fight for who the "best student" at the school is.
Bet On Strengths, Shore Up On Weaknesses
At the very end of middle school, after all the exploration and finding out what they may find interesting in the future, here comes one of the most important parts of a student's journey. They must bet on their strengths while shoring up their weaknesses. What this means, is that they have to go 75% in on the subjects they have a natural affinity for while also reserving enough time and effort to make sure they are not falling apart in the subjects they do not naturally gravitate to. This will set them up phenomenally for high-school and give them a head-start academically compared to the rest of their peers.
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