In the time between searching for the right college and starting classes the first day, your student will have a lot of boxes to check. But becoming prepared for the transition itself — an important step — often gets lost in the shuffle. College isn’t like high school, and the transition can be jarring if your student isn’t prepared for it.
Here are four areas of focus to help your student have a successful transition from high school to college.
Get a planner
This is one of the single most important things your student can do. College has more moving parts than high school and a good planner will help them keep on track.
Build a daily routine that prioritizes academics
Their planner can help them do this. Your student’s planner should include their class schedule, locations, assignment due dates, exam dates, etc.
Plan study time
Your student should also include study times in their planner — if they schedule study blocks, they are far more likely to use that time for studying and spend far less time cramming the night before a due date or exam.
Find resources before they need them
Before classes start, your student should be familiar with where the library is located on campus, as well as how to go about getting tutoring. Most colleges offer tutoring and if they need it, your student doesn’t want to waste time figuring out where the tutoring center is located and how to sign up for it.
Have a financial plan
When your student gets to college, they may be tempted to spend more money than they should. The gang’s all going to Starbucks? That’s $5. Their friend asks them to go to a movie on Saturday night? $20. Spending money on these things isn’t necessarily bad. After all, entertainment and time with friends are important. But your student needs to make sure they can afford these types of costs by planning for them. And that starts with making a budget.
Create a budget
It is extremely important for your student to have a monthly budget so they know what they can and can’t afford. A budget is fairly easy to make — they need to total up their monthly income and subtract from that all their monthly expenses. Hopefully they have a positive figure and not a negative one. If their figure is negative they’ll either have to trim their expenses or increase their income (or a little of both). There are all sorts of good tools on the internet that can help your student build their budget.
Develop habits that are in line with their financial plan
Once your student creates their monthly budget, they may have to get in the habit of saying no to certain things that are outside that budget. For example, if their friend wants them to come get a $5 coffee and chat, your student may have to suggest a home-brewed cup of tea and a chat. Though going a few dollars outside their budget may not seem like a big deal (and in reality it’s not), it’s really all about building the habit. If they say yes to a coffee they can’t afford today, they’re more likely to say yes again tomorrow and the day after that.
Outline their semester
Unlike in high school, most instructors in college won’t be on your student making sure they’re in class and turning in assignments on time. This means it’s your student’s responsibility to be self-disciplined and have good time management skills. For each class, they should know and follow the schedule, read the syllabus from cover to cover, and plan out their exam and assignment dates in advance (this is where that handy dandy planner comes in again).
Say no to procrastination
If your student is a natural procrastinator, college isn’t going to help. In fact, with the freedom that college offers, a natural procrastinator will likely be tempted to procrastinate even more. How can they fight the urge to put it off until tomorrow? Being organized helps (there’s that planner again). Having frequent study breaks to look forward to is also good. And giving themselves a reward when they complete a task is a helpful incentive to not let things linger.
Realize they can’t do it all
There's always something happening in college. Along with classes and studying, your student can attend sports, lectures, events — and we haven’t even mentioned all the socializing with friends. With so much going on, your student will have to say no to some things. (And it shouldn’t be to academics — that should always come first.) It might be hard at times, but once they realize that there are a million other opportunities to do cool things, saying no to some of them here and there shouldn’t be as big a deal.
Have a strategy to manage stress
Your student should have at least one healthy way to help deal with their stress. It could be going for a run, talking to a close friend or family member, or meditating whenever they feel stress coming on. Ask your student to think about what their go-to stress reliever is going to be in college so they’re ready when they need it.
Have a network
Students who have a network of friends, family and professors are usually better able to deal with stress than those who don’t. Your student can start growing their network by joining a student club, connecting with professors at office hours or forming a study group with other classmates.
Keep doing things they enjoy
To help keep stress at bay, it’s important for your student to make room in their day for things they enjoy. This can be as simple as taking 20 minutes to read a book, watch a favorite show or take a walk. Having these daily respites can do wonders for calming a busy mind.
Do a daily check in
Sometimes students can get so busy that they don’t even stop to ask if they’re becoming stressed out. That’s why your student should make time for a daily check-in with themselves. It can be at any point in the day, but we recommend the middle of the day when they’ve been going for a while and still have plenty of busy hours left in the day. They should ask themselves how they are feeling and if they’re stressed or overwhelmed. If they are, then they should do something about it — perhaps fall back on their chosen strategy to manage stress that we mentioned earlier.
Sleep, sleep, sleep
While your student might be aiming for As and Bs in college, they should also aim for Zs — as in sleep. Being well rested gives your student the upper hand when dealing with stress, and can help them see any challenges they are facing more clearly.
Talk to a professional
Most colleges offer professional counseling services. If things get a bit too overwhelming for your student, they should consider talking to a counselor, because sometimes just having someone to talk to can make all the difference.
Here’s to a successful transition and first year for your student.