Transitioning From High School to College

Tips for College Freshman

Author: Dr. Julie. Sorenson, DMFT, MA, LPC

student sitting alone

And…., You are Off.

Moving can be an exciting yet stressful time. It is a time of transition; you finally get to leave home, move away and learn about your adult identity. But…, wait, so much more goes with transitioning from high school to college. You probably have already discovered who your roommate or suitemates are. You might be buying things for your freshman dorm or apartment. You have likely toured the campus, had orientation, and signed up for your classes. The excitement may be turning into a pinch of anxiety. Remember, some anxiety is good, and you must know yourself well enough to determine if you need extra assistance coping.


You are heading to unknown terrain, meeting new humans, new perspectives, new stressors, and new routines. You won’t have your laundry done, and you must figure out how to feed yourself. You will be responsible for getting to class on time, studying, and managing your time. It is common for even the most high-achieving high school students to feel self-doubt or lose confidence. You may even be questioning your ability to succeed. Remember that you, among 20 million other first-year college students, may have the same feelings; you are not alone. When students don’t feel prepared, it can become unsettling. You may notice stress from being away from home, from parents, friends, and familiarity, which are common feelings that first-year college students face.

Tips to Help the Transition Go Smooth

When going to college, knowing you aren’t alone is essential. There will be some amazing days ahead and some that are stressful. Managing how to deal with the stressors that lie ahead will allow for a smoother transition. College is about social, personal, and academic success and growth. There may be some bumps along the way, but all this is normal. Here are a few pointers that can help as you start your next chapter.

young adults walking
  • Find a mentor – An adult at college can assist you in navigating through the college process and allow you to vent about challenges you may face. The adult can help you choose majors and career paths and help you to build healthy relationships. Teachers and coaches from high school may be able to provide the support you need. Students need to take the ropes in finding that adult they can go to for help.
  • You set the pace for your path in college. College isn’t just about coursework, and while that is important to maintain good grades and to receive your diploma, it’s not just about academic life. There are extracurricular activities, clubs, and extra-learning opportunities. Find. Your passion and pursue it. Look for volunteer opportunities, internships, and jobs that can enhance your college experience.
  • Find your tribe. Finding a group of people that you feel comfortable with is essential. College can be one of the best times of your life, and often, the friend you make during this time will last a lifetime. These friends can help you through the bad days and celebrate the good days. Blaze your trail and be around the people that make you feel appreciated for who you are.
  • It is okay not to know precisely what you want. There will be challenges and phases of new identities. College is a time for you to figure out who you are. Self-reflection is essential, and it’s okay to let go of friendships that may not serve you the way you used to as you discover who you are.
  • Don’t be afraid to find out who you are as an adult. It is okay if it takes time. The college offers opportunities for risks while finding out who you are. Make sure your risks are healthy and help improve your mental health, not tearing it down. Your mental health matters and being aware of how you are feeling is crucial.
  • Learn how to manage your stress. Contact a mental health professional if things become complicated and you need assistance with the transition or managing time and stress.
  • Self-care is essential. College is busy, but finding time for you each day will assist in eliminating stress. Take time to exercise, be in nature, journal, or do the things you love.
  • Remember, mistakes happen, and it’s okay. Think: will this affect you in 5 mins, 5 hours, five days, five weeks, five months, or five years? If you get to the five months or five years and it won’t affect you, then let it go. There will be disappointments, but its okay life isn’t always perfect.
  • If you are procrastinating, find out why? Do you have good time management skills? Do you need help with content, are you overscheduled? Find ways to enhance your academic performance. Remember, professors are people too, and it is okay to ask for help.
  • Take advantage of study groups and your university’s academic support options. If something is hard, find someone that can help you. Remember, we all have different strengths and weaknesses and can build off each other.
  • Set boundaries.
  • Contact family or old friends and share your stories, struggles, challenges, and fears. Someone may be happy to hear from you, and it may be good for you to hear a familiar voice on the phone.

Finally, Have Fun

There are plenty of opportunities for social outlets. Find groups that interest you. If you feel lonely, look at all the available clubs and organizations. Take a risk and go to social events to meet new people. It is your time to learn and grow into a person you have never been, so take healthy risks. If you are struggling with finding social outlets, therapists are available to assist you in finding avenues to pursue. Never feel like you have to go through it alone. Everyone has their path, and you will get there, but take time to have fun along the way. College goes by in the blink of an eye, don’t miss out on opportunities.

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