A Guide to a Smooth Transition from High School to College

Graduating from high school and going to college can be a shocking transition for many students, even those that are used to being at the top of their class! There is no right or wrong way to transition because everyone has unique personal and academic experiences before pursuing higher education. However, generally speaking, college assignments and exams are much more rigorous. With there being fewer assignments, every grade counts.

If you’ve decided on a college to attend, congratulations! It’s now time to prepare for the big transition! Here are a few tips to help you bridge the gap and adapt seamlessly to university life.

Create a Schedule

First thing’s first: Make a manageable schedule that will set you up for success. This could mean different things to different people. For example, if you work best with tight structure, then you may explore blocking out every hour for productive activities like waking/sleeping, eating nourishing meals, exercising, studying, attending classes, working, and socializing. A well-rounded schedule is key to staying sane, so maintaining balance is essential. Consider how many classes you think you can handle each quarter or semester, and try not to stretch yourself too far. Doing so may result in falling behind on other important life aspects necessary for vital health and success.

TIP: The great thing about college is that unlike in high school, you don’t have to take morning classes if you are not a morning person. Alternatively, late-night classes are not necessarily mandatory for those who prefer to stay in once it gets dark out. In college, you get a lot more freedom with scheduling. Take advantage of this by checking out course availability and putting together a class schedule that best suits your lifestyle.

Know Your Resources

It’s totally normal to come across a few roadblocks in college. If you find yourself struggling in a class, it’s best to ask for help right away. Do it while your mind is still fresh on the topic that you need clarification on. Waiting too long may result in never getting the help you need, which may hamper your ability to do well in a class. Professors hold regular office hours, a block of time set aside for students to come in and ask questions. Depending on your institution, there may also be free tutoring services and study-skills workshops available. If you have a physical or learning disability, then find out what additional resources and accommodations are at your disposal.

Getting a mentor or two can also enhance your college experience. Identify peers you respect, resident assistants, career counselors, academic advisors, and alumni that can give you direction, motivation, and even help you land your future dream job! Familiarizing yourself with available resources ahead of time will set you up for success.

Show Up Everyday

We may all have days where we don’t feel like going to class. Unlike in high school, college professors don’t often take attendance, and mom and dad aren’t around to wake you up. At the end of the day, higher education is what you make of it. That being said, it’s important to take responsibility for yourself and go to class every day. Showing up allows you to stay on top of course materials and learn what your professor considers most important. This may clue you into what exams may entail! In class, take thorough notes in a way that’s conducive to your study habits, and maybe even find a reliable study buddy who can help fill you in if you’re ever absent.

Enjoy the College Experience

College can get stressful, especially around exam time. It can be easy to get stuck in a moment, but the reality is these four years seem to fly by quickly. Soon before you know it, you’ll be out in the real world working through to your retirement! College is a great place to embrace your youth and experience new things that you didn’t in high school. Don’t be afraid to take fun classes for the purpose of learning and engaging in new material, even if they don’t account for much towards your degree. If you still aren’t sure what you want to pursue after college, then taking a variety of courses may help you get a better idea.

In addition to exploring various courses, don’t forget to join a club, volunteer for a cause that’s close to your heart, and explore your university surroundings! College is about more than just studying all day. By joining a club or volunteering, you may meet interesting people that you wouldn’t otherwise. Networking is a crucial part of the college experience that could take you far after graduating with a four-year degree. Finally, many people move out of their immediate hometown for college. If this sounds like you, don’t be afraid to venture out and see what your new city offers! For example, if your college is located near a beach, consider switching up your study space and read there while soaking in some Vitamin D. You may just find yourself feeling more rejuvenated and motivated!

Study Smart

In college, professors often do not grade homework like teachers do in high school. In fact, they will assume that you are following the syllabus and completing the assignments on your own even if they aren’t being checked. At the end of the day, it’s your responsibility to reach out for help or clarification when needed before the exam(s).

Everyone studies best differently. Practice exams, pairing up with a study buddy, going above and beyond on assignments, and actively asking questions during professor’s office hours are some effective study methods. Some courses and textbooks may even come with exclusive access to chapter outlines which can be resourceful as a quick refresher before a test.

Coming out of high school, you may be used to having homework assignments to help “cushion” your grades. In college, your grade is determined by how you do on a couple of exams and writing assignments. If you don’t do so well on one, then you may end up with a C final grade, at best. With that said, don’t expect to coast through college if high school was a breeze for you. Plan on studying in a distraction-free zone, and don’t wait until the last minute to do so.

Take “Me Time” Often

The detrimental effects of stress are emotionally, physically, and mentally linked. With a super busy college schedule, you may forget to do the basics to take care of yourself. This can lead to a downward spiral that may prevent you from doing well in school. Remember to practice self-care by taking part in activities that are meaningful to you, knowing when to say no, getting enough sleep each night, surrounding yourself with invigorating people, eating well, and exercising at least 30 minutes a day. Taking some time off of academics can help you feel more refreshed to put in more time to study later.

Adjust Your Expectations

The initial transition period from high school to college can be difficult for some. Don’t feel bad if you find that things are not working out as planned. Instead, give yourself some time to adjust your expectations, modify your schedule, and manage stress so that you can be on the road to a productive four years in college!

For example, if you were able to handle taking seven classes in high school and feel frustrated that you are struggling to juggle only four in college, just remember that college curriculum is more intense and may take some getting used to. Freshmen may find it easier on their mental, emotional, and physical health to start with three classes first and work their way up as they get comfortable with college life.


A big part of the college experience is figuring things out for yourself, learning to make smart decisions, and working time management to your advantage. For example, finding out the time you are most productive and the best reading strategies that help you retain information will help you be successful in and out of the classroom. Additionally, adopting important habits like self-control, a positive attitude, and organization skills will go a long way to ensure that you stay on top of your assignments.

Finally, a last bit of advice for college-bound students: Enjoy the final summer before college so that you are fully relaxed and mentally prepared for a new and exciting chapter of life!