Tips for Making the Transition from High School to College

The transition from high school to college or university is a huge jump. At high school, you are a child, at college or university you are an adult. Teachers at high school help pupils and nag them to do their homework, tutors at college or university expect students to have self-discipline and hand their work in promptly.

The way tutors teach in colleges is different to the teaching in high schools. You may be fortunate enough to attend college in your home town but it is more likely that you will have to attend university far from your home, which means that you may be living in halls of residence or in a rented flat or house with other students.

This means that you may be responsible for things that your parents currently do, but which you never think about, such as paying bills, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and caring for yourself and monitoring your own behaviour.

Although moving from school to college or university is a very exciting time, it is also a challenging time and new students need to think about many things before going to university. Here are some tips to help new students think more carefully about this major change in their lives.

Many colleges and universities have excellent web sites, which include helpful advice to students coming into college for the first time. Some include a section from existing students detailing what they wished they had known before they came to university. Much information is general information useful for all students leaving home to study at any college or university. The internet also hosts various helpful advice websites for students going away to study for the first time.

There are three areas, which students transitioning from high school to college need to think about. New college students need to think about the educational differences between high school and college or university, they need to think about looking after themselves, and they need to think carefully about the fact that they now have to keep themselves safe and behave in an adult way without supervision. As with any great change in life, preparing makes sense.

The college or university that you plan to attend may run a head start course to help prospective students acquaint themselves with the difference between learning at high school and studying at university. At college or university, tutors, especially at British universities, expect students to take responsibility for their studies and learning. Tutors will expect students to ask for help and advice, rather than expecting the tutor to notice their difficulties. British students read for their degrees, and they are expected to do much independent study and to read widely around their subject.

High school examinations merely require you to regurgitate the facts that your teachers taught you during the preceding year or years. University examinations require that you present the facts, but also to demonstrate independent thought and to draw your own conclusions from those facts. It is radically different to teaching and learning methods in high school.

The university where you are going to study will have many support services for students. Your university web site will have a web page detailing the services available. Many University web sites, such as that of Aberdeen University, have a section devoted to new students detailing the information that they may require. Some university web sites now allow you to do much of induction and student registration process on line.

If you cannot cook, it might be a good idea to take a simple cookery course, one that will enable you to prepare easy, quick, cheap and nourishing meals for yourself. Ask your parents or other family members to show you how to cook nourishing, inexpensive and simple meals and snacks. Another idea might to be asking family members and friends to give you their favourite cheap, quick and easy recipe.

Every cook has these kinds of recipes, and he, or she, will be very happy to share them with you. If you asked them to write them down or print them out for you, you could make your own personal cookery book. Family and friends might ask you what you would like for a going away present, it might be a good idea to ask for a good student cookery book. There are several helpful web sites for student cooks, which include recipes, food hygiene, and shopping advice.

You should also think about other practical realities of your new life, such as how you are going to get your laundry done and other such matters. Chores, such as cleaning and laundry are boring, but they need doing if you are to make the most of your learning opportunity. If you are living in a student house or flat share, you will need to learn how to live with others, not as a child but as an adult.

This means doing your share, not leaving messes for others, and considering your housemates, for example, thinking for yourself that having your music too loud, at midnight, is not a good idea because housemates are asleep. You have to remember that your parents will not be there to keep you in line.

Making a realistic budget for your expenses might also be good preparation for college. Knowing how much you have, and can afford to spend on particular items, will prevent you from getting over-excited and blowing your whole term or semester’s expense allowances on unaffordable extravagances. Eking your money out will mean that it will last all term or semester, rather than you existing on fresh air at the end of term. Knowing how much you need to put aside for essentials like rent and bills, will help you budget your money responsibly.

Young people moving from high school to college are changing the certainties of home and childhood for the uncertainties of adult life. Your parents have always been there looking out for you, but in your new life you will have to look out for yourself. You will have to take charge of your health, safety and behaviour. There is no Mum at college, reminding you to eat properly, and there is no Dad asking how you are getting home from the concert and offering a lift. You have to work these things out for yourself.

Mum and Dad’s rules, though they seemed irksome, kept you from doing silly, dangerous, or harmful things at home, at college you will have to set your own rules. Self-discipline is a quality that will help you throughout life, and one that employers like to see, because it means that an employer can trust you to do the job, properly, with minimal supervision.

You will have to think about whether behaviours are appropriate or legal. Whether they will harm you or spoil your life and you will have to think about the consequences of your own actions and be responsible for those actions and their consequences. You might well be longing for the freedom that becoming an adult brings, but you should remember that adult freedoms bring adult responsibilities.

If you do not study enough, you will not pass your course, and that will be your fault, not your tutor’s fault. If you engage in an illegal behaviour, the police will prosecute you. All actions have consequences. Your parents’ rules saved you from the worst consequences of your own actions, whilst you were a child. Now you should think about those rules and decide why your parents made the rules and what consequences they were trying to prevent, and decide which rules to make for yourself.

Family and friends may ask what you would like as a gift. Ask for practical gifts, such as a lamp, grocery gift cards or tokens in small denominations, book tokens, pre-paid travel cards or vouchers, a student cookery book, which will help stretch your money. An electric tea kettle, (if allowed in your student accommodation) sachets of tea, coffee, instant drinking chocolate, instant soups or other foods that rehydrate with boiling water, will be helpful during marathon study sessions. Other practical gifts might also help you, for example, H’s elder sister bought her fourteen pairs of underwear, when she left for university, to save trips to the launderette.

It is tempting to spend all summer celebrating the transition between high school and university. Celebrate by all means, but you will settle far better at college if you spend some of your summer preparing for your new life. Life changes constantly, but the transition between high school and university is one of the biggest changes in life. Sensible adults to prepare for change.