Making The Transition: From High School to College

Posted on June 15th, 2022 to College transition

Congratulations, you did it! You were admitted to college and graduated from high school. I imagine that with graduation ceremonies over, you are enjoying the seemingly endless graduation parties and looking forward to a relaxing summer. You should, it is well earned.

With that in mind, after the parties end and you start to get grounded again there is something important to start thinking about: the transition from high school to college. In fact, this new journey has likely already begun. You probably have already started to receive information about required forms, housing options, orientation programs, and course selection. 

I am here to tell you that it only gets more hectic as the summer wears on. No need to be stressed though. There are 4 things you can do to make your transition feel much more manageable. 


ORGANIZATION

When it comes to heading off to college there are a lot of details to consider. The school is going to send you a lot of important information via emails, printed communications, text messages, and more. This may include information about:

  • Housing surveys
  • Travel information
  • What you can bring and what you CAN’T bring
  • Medical documents
  • Orientation programs and other programming
  • Application deadlines for scholarships, fellowships, jobs, etc.

Do you have a system to manage the information? If not, it’s time to develop one. An effective organizational system will help you keep track of important deadlines, progress in completing paperwork, and lessen any overwhelming feelings you may have.

SUPPORT

In 2009 President Barack Obama, during a speech to high school students, said, “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.”

As you navigate any new experience you need to understand who you can turn to at times when you need guidance. In some instances this may be family or friends or mentors or teachers. Each situation will be different. Some critical questions to consider are:

  • Who is in your support network? 
  • Who isn’t in your support network, but should be? (e.g. counseling center, orientation student leaders, resident advisors, new friends, etc.)

You may find it helpful to write it down, so please use this worksheet to help you clarify who you can reach out to for support.

ORIENTATION

Every college offers some kind of orientation experience – a specific program to help you become acclimated to your new environment. This will include activities to get to know your classmates, get to know the physical environment, and expose you to helpful resources.

In addition you will need to give yourself space and time to get comfortable. For many students, this transition can come with a discovery of self. You may find yourself willing to try new experiences, meet new people, or set new goals. Some students also have an opposite experience, where they start to retreat into themselves. Regardless, it is in moments like these that Socrates’ advice still rings true “Know thyself”. Understand your strengths, and lean into them. Take some time to identify areas for improvement, then decide how you can work on them.

BREATHING

It is common for people to start to feel a certain level of stress when encountering a new situation, such as starting college or leaving home for a gap year experience. Our body’s natural response to this kind of stress is to trigger the autonomic nervous system (aka “fight, flight, or freeze”). Our heart rate increases, breathing gets faster, and we may feel a little queasy. This is all normal! The most effective method to counteract our body’s response is to focus on breathing. I know it seems too simple to be true, right?! Regaining control of your breath will help to manage the stress of the moment and your body’s reaction to it. 

 


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