The Transition From High School to College

Graduation is an exciting time. It’s both an ending and a beginning. It’s warm memories of the past and big dreams for the future.

If your about to graduate from high school and are looking to go to college, you probably have a lot going on. You may be checking out different campuses, attending orientations, speaking with different advisors on the phone or in person, filling out applications, getting student loans and scholarships. You probably have a lot on your plate even if you have a job. Well if you have gone through this transition, this post may not be for you. If you are going through this or in the next year or two you will, hopefully this information makes it easier for you and clears some things up. I’ve gone through this transition and it can be draining. There were days that were tougher than others. So don’t think your the only high school student who is struggling with this transition; many other students are as well.

What is this Transition?

The high school to college transition is one the big transitions in your life that you’ll experience. You can say that your making the transition from teenager to adult since this transition mostly involves students who are 17 and 18. There can be a lot of uncertainty of what is going to happen next in your life. The feelings of uncertainty can be greater if you are moving out of home and plan on living in a dorm on the college campus, getting your own apartment, or moving in with friends are a few examples. You get your first taste of what adulthood and the real world are like. You have to take care of yourself like feeding yourself, washing your clothes, and getting yourself up for class are a few examples. This transition can be scary for some people because you may not know what to do especially if you’re going to be living on your own. You may get advice from your parents, friends, siblings, or teachers about this transition. Getting advice is good since it gives you a sense of direction and clarity, but you have to decide what works best for you.

New Atmosphere and Environment

Any kind of college or university is going to have be a different environment than what you experienced in high school. The atmosphere is going to be different as well. The student body is going to be much much larger, the age range of people is going to be bigger than just 18 year olds and people in their early twenties. You’ll have people in their thirties, forties, fifties, even some who are 15 and 16. The professors still hold you accountable to do the work required, but they won’t be on you like a needle on a cactus to do it. They leave it up to you to do the work and turn it in. They won’t go out if their way to see if you keep up with the assignments. For example, if you don’t turn in an assignment, they will just give you a zero and move on. I guess you can say that they won’t mommy you because it’s not their job. You are able to walk around the campus whenever you want even if you don’t have a class that day. You have the opportunity to be your own person. You can visit the library anytime you want. There is usually a place where students can eat and get together to study, hangout, attend an event, etc. I would suggest checking it out. There are opportunities to join a sorority or fraternity and be close and live with other students. You still have the opportunity to attend various sporting events and getting involved in other clubs and organizations at your school.

Here are some tips that can help you during this transition:

1. Develop Time Management Skills

When it comes to college classes, as I pointed out no one is going to force you to attend them. If you want to do well, you need to attend class on time, do the work assigned, and when there is an exam, be in class that day. Having a planner can be helpful to keep track of when assignments are due, exam dates, appointments, and other responsibilities. Trying to cram everything thing you need to know for an exam the night before might not work out well. Try planning on studying for 2 or 3 days before the exam.

2. Be Ready to Write a Lot

Depending on the classes you take, you will be writing quite a number of essay papers. You’ll be given a topic and you’ll have to develop a thesis for it and then support it with facts. You’ll have to thoroughly explain the topic in specific details. These papers can range from 2 to 3 pages or more. Plan out how much you’re going to write each day so that you’re not scrambling at the last second.

3. Keep Procrastination in Check

When it comes to college work it can be overwhelming. One thing to keep in mind is to not put things off over and over and let that become a habit. If you have a large project to complete, break it down into smaller and more manageable tasks. The large scary project won’t seem that scary when you tackle it one small piece at a time. I can speak from experience. Doing this will allow you to build your confidence. If you have 5 assignments due by the end of the week, plan what days you want to do what assignments. If you have more free time on one day, try and get done two assignments that day. If one day you have a lot of things going on a certain way, you may only have time to complete one assignment or maybe none. Plan accordingly and don’t overwhelm yourself to where you put the assignment off completely.

4. Take Care of Yourself

As I mentioned your parents won’t be there to tell you what to do. So it will be up to you when I go to bed, when does study, do laundry, and when to eat. Poor self-care can result in unnecessary stress that can affect your schoolwork. Exercise can be helpful in staving off stress even if it’s just walking around campus. Getting good sleep and eating right will give you the energy you need to better tackle the college life.

5. Remember to Ask for Help

The high school to college transition as I mentioned can be scary. What would help to clear the confusion and uncertainty is to ask people for help. Talk with one or some of your teachers about it, they went through the transition. Talk to your parents, relatives, a guidance counselor, older siblings, etc. There’s some people in your life that I’ve gone through this transition and they can offer you advice on what worked for them and maybe it will work for you. Ask questions about how to pay for tuition, applying for scholarships, what to do when you’re not in class, study tips, if living on campus are living at home and going to class is better for me, should I be working while going to school, etc.

Final Thoughts and Sum Up

The high school to college transition is a big step and new chapter in your life if you decide to step into it. Yes it could be scary overwhelming confusing, but you’re not the only one that is thinking and experiencing those things. There are people out there who can help you. Your parents and friends even teachers can be there to support and help you. I will say that when going through this transition, take care of yourself. You’re the only you in this world.

The Transitions of Life are Real

When we are born, we start out as infants.  We grow up and become children.  We go to school and move up from grade to grade.  Then we become teenagers.  Next we become an adult and grow old.  During those times, we get a job, a new job, fall in love, go to college, get divorced, start a business, deal with the passing of someone, meet various people, have children, move away, etc.  All of these things and many more are transitions that happen to us in our lifetime.  These transitions can be smooth, but they can also be rough.

I have had small periods and long periods of transitions in my life.  Your not alone in dealing with tough transitions that happen to you.  Transitions in life are chapters that make up the story of you life.  When one ends, another one is usually around the corner.  These transitions can be difficult and rough for us. 

For example, someone who graduates high school and moves out of the house and goes away to college is dealing with a big transition that can have multiple parts in it.  One they are moving out and are going to be living on their own.  That can be scary for people because they may not be prepared to take care of themselves health wise and even financially.  The life skills and knowledge one acquires during their life can have a huge impact on how they will be able to live on their own and deal with real world things.

Second, going to college is a transition where one acquires desired knowledge and skills, takes on more responsibility, and where one’s discipline is tested and grows.  You have to wake up, get ready, and go to class.  You may not have someone to wake you up.  The professors may not care that you are in class.  You miss an assignment, handouts, lecture notes, even a test, it’s up to you to get them and make it up.  Some professors may help, but that’s not a guarantee.

We can get caught up in the emotions that come with these transitions that they can help us move forward, but they can also cause us stress.  We grow and we can change with each transition.  The transformation process that takes place can may us think of the unknown.  We don’t know what we will become of us during and after the next transition which can scares us sometimes.

Transitions can last for short periods, but they can last for long periods as well.  An adjustment phase takes place and as you begin to get familiar with what’s around you, you feel more comfortable.  Long periods of transition can be tough since, what I call the unknown factor, can make things frightening.  Your environment is a big factor during a transition.  This can include meeting the new people in it, the atmosphere of the place, and how we will be affected by it.  

If you are having trouble dealing with a current life transitions or have had trouble with them in the past, here are some tips to help you with your next one: 

1. Learn to Accept the Change

A transition in life is a change.  When it comes to change, we can have trouble accepting it and adapting into it.  We can fight it, but there are some transitions that happen that are out of control.  The first thing to do is to acknowledge it.  Then we ask ourselves if this is something we can stop.  If we can, we stop it.  If we can’t stop it, then we have to adapt into it.  Continuing to fight the change can cause stress and increased levels of anxiety.  

2. Patience is Helpful

Long transitions of life can be a transformative process that don’t happen overnight or even sometimes within the week.  In a previous post, I mentioned leaving our comfort zone can be unsettling.  Transitions take time, so being patient with ourselves is what we can do.  We can be hard on ourselves for not adapting quickly into a new role or with the event itself which can be discouraging.  We have to take things one day at a time and not expect to handle it or learn it all in one day, a week, or even a month.  This advice may not be the best if you landed a new job and need to be able to adjust and learn things quickly, but that is what the job interview is for; to figure out what all is expected of you and learn if the job really is a good fit for you.

3. Change the Way You Think About the Transition

Stressvision is where your mind imagines that the worst is happening or will happen when in reality that isn’t the case.  If we head into a life transition with a negative perspective, it will make the adjustment and transformative process harder to deal with it.  Make up a list of the positive things that can come about from this transition.  Recite them everyday, write them down and have them with you at all times.  

Transitions aren’t always clear, this can be called transition fog.  Here is a video of how to navigate through that transition fog from Brenda Kline Reynolds.  She is a business and change management consultant who talks about how to manage the changes that occur with life transitions.

Life transitions have affect on our feelings and emotions.  We can feel happy and joyful about them, but we also can be frighten and doubtful about them as well.  Some people thrive on the new experiences whereas some struggle with them.  If you are struggling with them, that’s ok, your not the only one.  Don’t put yourself down or beat yourself up over this change.  Give yourself a break every now and then as you acclimate into the next chapter in your life.  If you take one step each day, then your doing good; even a little bit is ok.  Remember, if you are having trouble with these transitions in any shape or form, there is someone else having trouble with them as well even the same ones your dealing with.