Eighth grade is a big year for many students. It is the last year of elementary or middle school, and the last year before high school. The student, indeed the entire family, has goals throughout the year. Meeting these goals prepares the student for high school academically, socially and emotionally.

Choosing a High School

Some school systems assign high school attendance based on the student's home address. If attending public schools, the student has no real option but the assigned school. However, more city and county school systems offer magnet school options. Students with a talent for art, math, science or music may have the option of attending a school that specializes in nurturing their gift. Check with your local school system for application dates. Many application dates are at the beginning of the eighth grade year.

Academic Goals

By eighth grade, the student should have good basic skills. Classes that dissect and discuss literature replace basic reading courses. Ideas such as metaphor, theme and character development take the place of decoding skills. In a similar way, teachers no longer expect simple essays about summer activities. Instead, many eighth grade teachers introduce the research paper. Students learn how to conduct, use and cite references from books, magazines and the Internet. Math moves beyond the basic skills as students explore higher math, such as basic algebra and geometry, and use math applications in science.

Electives

Preparing students for college begins in eighth grade. Many schools offer elective classes in language, music, drama and art. These classes offer the student a chance to try out these activities in an academic setting. Some schools allow students to switch classes several times throughout the year to give each student a wider range of experience. Some schools require students to take classes in early adult skills such as cooking, basic home and auto care. When students start high school, they know how to fix a healthy meal, sew on a button, change a tire and turn off the water supply to any plumbing fixture.

Social Goals

By eighth grade, students are pulling away from their parents and becoming more invested in their peer group. Students make decisions on clothing, music and activities based more on what their friends follow than parents. This is a normal part of development. Unless the student is making dangerous choices, the parents should encourage this behavior. However, parents need to remind the student to exert their own desires and personal style. This helps the student retain a strong sense of self throughout the teen years. In addition, parents need to consider the child's activities and schedule. It is important to help the child plan time for academics, time for play, time for family and time for self.