Can I Do This? 4 Tips for a Successful Transition to College

Thursday, November 03, 2016
Empty Lecture Hall

The transition from high school to university represents one of the most difficult challenges a student will face during their lifetime. By this point, you may even question your ability to meet this new challenge. Although most students will struggle with this change in some way, there exist a number of methods that will aid in a more seamless move during the early months of university life. 

1. Understand Your Apprehension

If you feel nervous or stressed during your first months of university life, do not fret. In all seriousness, it demonstrates your humanity! Humans generally fear change to a large degree (Kegan & Lahey, 2009). This change anxiety oftentimes results in people shying away from challenges or situations (Schein, 2010). University certainly represents an enormous change in life. Therefore, you will naturally experience some fear during the transition. However, also understand that it will subside.

2. Realize Your New Role as a Scholar

One of the most common mistakes I witness as one who teaches at both the high school and university levels pertains to how students view themselves. Attending university does not mean you “take classes,” but rather that you accept the undertaking of reforming your mind into that of a scholar.  Understand that when the brain learns vast amount of new skills and information, it actually rewires! (Kurzweil, 2012). A scholar transforms their thinking to connect their subject to everyday occurrences. Once you begin to think of yourself as a mathematician, engineer, or historian and not simply as someone “taking classes,” you will develop a pride in your new studies that will often excite you to embrace this new challenge in life. Additionally, it usually results in better performance in those classes.

3. Connect to Your New Environment

Oftentimes it takes a person time to feel attached to a new environment.  This exists as another common trait in people. The best way to connect with your new surroundings involves becoming active in them. Universities provide ample opportunities to join clubs, small groups, charitable organizations, scholar memberships, and advocacy groups. Developing new relationships will not only connect you to the new people and organizations, but also will help you emotionally connect to your environment and the university. 

4. Form a Positive Outlook

Optimism provides a person with numerous benefits (Kahneman, 2011). The improved performance and stamina that arise from optimism most pertain to a new university student. There undoubtedly exist challenges in your new surroundings, but you will meet them much more easily if you continue to stay positive about these tasks. You might even have fun doing them!

About Dr. Matthew Sayers

Dr. Matthew Sayers is an NSHSS Educator of Distinction who dedicates his life to education. He attained a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education, Social Studies, and International Studies from Michigan State University in 2000. He immediately began teaching numerous history classes at Bendle High School in Burton, Michigan, where he continues to teach to this day. He has since completed his Masters and Specialist Degrees from Oakland University, and finished his Doctoral Degree at Central Michigan University in 2015. Additionally, he is a lecturer at the University of Michigan-Flint and continues his qualitative research in the field of Educational Reform and Leadership.