Three Steps Every Student Should Take to Smooth the Transition to College
Oct 6, 2020 | By: Kathy Griswold Fine, PhD
Even when every effort was made to identify a college that is a good fit (i.e. one where a student can thrive academically, socially, and emotionally), for many students the transition presents challenge.
In Part 1 of my Transitioning to College series, I provided evidence of the strain that college life is putting on our nation’s students. In this article, I provide strategies to help students mitigate some of the common pitfalls.
Based on the data shared in a recent blog post and the premises that:
College MUST be transformative
Students CAN thrive in college
College IS expensive
Four years MEANS 4 years, it is clear that transition strategies for college are essential: stat!
Step 1: Start Early
High school is the perfect time to refine academic skills (e.g. note taking, reading comprehension, academic writing, study skills etc.), learn organizational strategies, build on strengths, work to overcome weaknesses, and to start understanding what effective time management looks and feels like. High school students should challenge themselves sufficiently to ensure that they are growing as students and becoming positive and productive members of society.
Step 2: Develop a Three- Part Plan – Academic, Social, and Emotional
Winging it is rarely the most effective strategy. Once a commitment to a specific college has been made, students should make a plan and work the plan.
Academic: Suggestions include, but are not limited to: procuring all supplies, buying a planner and an At a Glance wall calendar, identifying academic support services available on campus, assessing strengths and weaknesses, setting goals, identifying potential mentors, and developing organizational and time management plans. Bottom line: arrive on campus positioned for academic success starting on DAY ONE.
Social: Suggestions include, but are not limited to: connecting with other incoming freshmen, identifying clubs and other organizations and contacting them, reaching out to admissions counselors with questions, and visiting campus. Bottom line: start to identify YOUR PEOPLE and PLACES so you know where to find them when you get to campus.
Emotional: Suggestions include, but are not limited to: practicing patience, accepting that transitions can be hard, setting realistic expectations, communicating with someone at home on a regular basis, keeping a journal, making good sleep choices, and cultivating a growth mindset so that if things get tough, perseverance kicks in. Believe hard things CAN and DO get done.
Step 3: Work the Plan
Plans only have value if they are implemented. Suggestions include, but are not limited to: hanging that wall calendar and inputting due dates and other events, finding people and places by joining a club, interest group, or spiritual group, locating at least two places on campus where connections and community can be found, managing time deliberately and effectively, acknowledging limitations and planning accordingly, and identifying a potential mentor.
Understanding and embracing the concept that transitions are hard and cultivating a growth mindset will help smooth the transition to college, and by extension help students achieve their goals. Expecting and planning for challenge by being deliberate in the transition processes will give students a leg up, not just in college, but in life.