How to Navigate the Transition from High School to College
Last updated August 17, 2023
Congratulations on making the transition from high school to college! This is a big step in your life, and it's completely normal to feel both excited and nervous about what's to come. As you navigate this transition, it's important to be aware of the differences in support between high school and college, as well as the challenges you may face along the way.
Recognize that the support you received in high school may not be the same as the support you receive in college
In high school, you may have had a support system that included parents, teachers, counselors, and other adults who were there to guide you through your academic and personal growth. In college, however, you may need to be more proactive in seeking out support. Here are some tips to help you get started on building your own support system in college:
Social support is also critical, so identify who your support network will be in college
Whether that's family members, friends, or campus resources like the counseling center or cultural clubs.
Attend orientation and welcome events
Most colleges and universities offer orientation programs for new students. These events are a great opportunity to meet other students, learn about campus resources, and get a sense of what college life is like. Make sure to attend as many of these events as possible, and take advantage of the opportunities to ask questions and connect with others.
Join a student organization!
Joining a student organization is a great way to meet other students with similar interests and to build a sense of community on campus. Whether you're interested in sports, politics, or the arts, there's likely a student organization that aligns with your interests.
Connect with other students
Building a network of supportive friends and classmates can be one of the most valuable resources you have in college. Make an effort to connect with others in your classes or simply strike up a conversation with someone. Connect with people in your dorm, or in social areas where students hang out.
One of the biggest differences between high school and college is the level of independence expected of you
In college, you will be responsible for managing your time, keeping up with your coursework, and making important decisions about your future. This can be a major culture shock for first-generation students who may not have the same level of familiarity with the college experience as their peers.
Take advantage of academic resources
Many colleges and universities offer academic resources like tutoring, study groups, and writing centers. These resources can be especially helpful if you're struggling with a particular course or assignment.
Talk to your professors
Your professors are a valuable resource for academic support and advice. Don't be afraid to ask questions, attend office hours, or reach out via email if you need help with a course.
Develop strategies for managing stress and staying on track academically
This may include setting goals, using time management techniques, and asking those close to you for help with staying accountable for deadlines.
Identify the resources you have at hand to help transition to college successfully
Try using the 4 S's of transition:
- Situation: First, take a step back and assess the situation. What is going on in your life right now, and what challenges do you anticipate facing in college?
- Self: Next, think about how your personal characteristics, such as your gender, race, or socioeconomic background, may impact your relation to the new setting based on your lived experience. This can help you develop a better understanding of your own needs and strengths.
- Social Support: Now, think about what social supports you currently have access to, particularly when you are in need of help.
- Strategies: Lastly, consider what coping strategies you know of, and use. Can you find ways to creatively manage your stress and anxiety in this new environment? If not, what do you need to accomplish this?
Remember that everyone's experience of transition is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. However, by paying attention to these 4 S's, individuals can develop a deeper understanding of their own needs and resources, and create a plan for success in their new situation.
Acknowledge that homesickness may be unavoidable
Homesickness is a common experience for many college students, especially those who are leaving home for the first time or attending a school far from their hometown. One of the best ways to combat homesickness is to stay connected with family and friends back home. Maintaining communication with family and community back home may keep you close to valuable support and advice, and can help hold you accountable as you adjust to college life.
Here are some tips for staying connected:
- Schedule regular phone calls or video chats. Try to schedule regular phone calls, video chats, or send postcards with family and friends back home.
- Share your new experiences! One of the best ways to stay connected with loved ones is to share your experiences with them. Share photos and stories from your new life on campus, and ask them to do the same.
- Try to plan visits home or to visit loved ones during breaks from school. Knowing that you have a visit with family or friends on the horizon can be a great motivator and help you feel less homesick.
- Connect with other students. Building a supportive network of friends and classmates on campus can also help combat homesickness. Attend social events, join clubs or organizations, and reach out to others in your classes to build new connections and friendships.
It can take time to adjust to a new environment, so be patient with yourself, and try not to isolate or withdraw from social connections and opportunities. If you're feeling overwhelmed or struggling to manage your homesickness, consider reaching out to a counselor or mental health professional for support. Remember you have people rooting for you and your success, you've got this!