5 Tips on Transitioning from High School to College

While many high school students have painstakingly spent the last 4 years (and likely beyond) preparing for the academic rigor of college it appears that far less take into account the major emotional and social transition ahead.  A 2015 survey conducted online by Harris Poll found that a majority of U.S. first-year college students felt emotionally underprepared for college, with students of color reporting feeling overwhelmed to a greater degree than whites during their first year and less comfortable seeking help.  Emotional preparedness, defined by the study as “the ability to take care of oneself, adapt to new environments, control negative emotions, and/or behavior, and build positive relationships”, was cited as a large component to student success during freshman year.

In making the transition from high school to college “Set To Go”, a Jed Program, recommends that students take into account the following factors:

  • Adjusting to college life
    • New freedom and independence
    • New people: adjusting to dorm life and sharing a room, making new friends and relationships with professors, coaches, etc.
      • Getting involved in campus activities can lead to greater connection with others and often leads to better overall college experiences.
    • Importance of sleep: 8 hours on average is crucial for peak functioning
      • Avoid caffeine
      • Limit screen time before bed
      • Establish a sleep routine and stick with it, even on weekends
    • Changing relationships
      • Family: You will likely go from seeing parents and siblings daily or frequently to much more infrequently. It is helpful to think about how you will stay connected – what mode of communication and how often? How much should parents be involved in decisions you make while at school?
      • Friendships: It can take weeks and months to make new friends. Get involved in activities that interest you and be patient with yourself. Remember that friends from home are adjusting to college life too and can provide a good support network. You will likely need to try harder to stay connected with old friends as time goes on, as you find a new balance with new friends and activities.
    • Academic performance and pressure
      • Your time will go from very structured and set by teachers, parents, and coaches to much less structured and determined by you, as you will have a lot of time when you are not in class. Most students spend no more than 15 hours in class each week. It might be tempting to sign up for every club, attend every event, and go to every party but one of the most important lessons you’ll learn in college is balance.
      • Remember the primary goal of attending college is to learn. Think about how you want to schedule your time in order to meet your goals.
    • Transitioning health and mental health care to college
      • If you had physical health problems that persisted, you would likely tell someone or see a doctor; the same is true for emotional health. If you find yourself struggling with overwhelming feelings, depression, or anxiety, reach out to a support early in order to prevent problems from getting worse.
      • You can learn about mental health and support services by visiting your school’s website. You can search terms like counseling center, mental health services, disability services, psychiatric services, etc. If you had treatment in the past and are interested in continuing or are interested in beginning treatment, reach out to your school’s counseling center to obtain more information on fees and scheduling as soon as possible.
      • It is important to note that college counseling centers get busier at certain times of the year (i.e. usually before mid-terms in the fall and spring). It is best to reach out at the beginning of the semester to ensure you get the time and care you deserve.
    • Special considerations
      • Transitioning to college is difficult for anyone but can be made more challenging if you are a:
        • First generation college student
        • Student athlete
        • Veteran
        • International student
        • Student with physical or learning disabilities
      • It is important that you are aware of the resources available to you, as most schools will have specific offices that can help ensure you get access to what you may need. It is recommended that you know who to contact once you are on campus.

For more information on things to think about when making the transition to college, please visit: https://www.settogo.org/for-students/the-transition/