GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- Elementary school is in the not-so-distant past for 12-year-old Caroleann Dancer-Torrance, but the incoming seventh-grader doesn't dwell. In fact, the only thing she misses about her primary education days is naptime.

"That was nice," she said with a smirk. "But it's also nice to have more freedom at school and not be treated as a kid anymore."

Dancer-Torrance is referring to the many changes that students experience graduating from elementary to middle school -- cubby holes are replaced with lockers, instructors teach subjects rather than grades, students no longer have to walk in a single-file line down the hallway, and of course, the sweaty palmed anxiety of the first school dance.

"It's a big deal," said Dancer-Torrance. "We're growing up. Now is the time to start thinking about grades and high school and college and about getting a job."

With school starting next week, students around the Bavaria Military Community are preparing themselves for the changes to come and many are entering a new era of education.

"I think they'll give us more to do and let us learn at our own pace," said Derek Davis. "We'll be working independently, like adults."

Davis, along with his best friend Tamisha Sibert, is entering Vilseck High School this year. The jump from middle school, said Sibert, comes with great responsibility.

"We're freshman now. High school is a much bigger step, you have to pay attention," she said. "You can't get away with as much as you did in middle school when it comes to studying and homework."

And talking to veteran high school students, this is true.

"By the time you leave middle school, you know the difference between right and wrong, you can't use that as an excuse anymore," said senior Txion King. "You have to use that potential that everyone has been talking about."

For King, high school is a place to grow and grow up.

"I'm at the top of the food chain now," he said. "It's kind of a scary place to be -- knowing everything will change next year, but high school prepares you for that. Then it's off to college."

Senior Anthony Montanez agreed.

"It's always about the next step, and college is that next step."

Navigating the halls on his first day of high school three years ago wasn't easy for Montanez, but he admits it wasn't as bad as he had anticipated. Like any new endeavor, you adjust, learn and have fun, he said.

Montanez is ready to move on. He's looking forward to college next year, but leaving high school will surely be bittersweet.

"It's the best four years of your life," he said.