College life

The transition to post-secondary education can be both rewarding and challenging. There will be many new experiences and you will likely feel:

  • Fear
  • Excitement
  • Anticipation
  • Confusion
  • Uncertainty
  • Loneliness
  • Pride

One of the most important changes that occurs during this time is that you learn to become more self-reliant. Other changes you may encounter when you begin post-secondary education include:

It is important to give yourself time to adjust to post-secondary school. Do not expect too much of yourself all at once!

Making new friends

One of the biggest challenges that you will face as you enter post-secondary school is the change in your social life.

You may go from having lots of friends in high school to being virtually alone in post-secondary school. Even if some of your old friends do go to your new school, you may not see much of them because of the size of your classes or the differences in your schedules. This leaves you with the task of making friends all over again. Remember, almost everyone is in the same situation as you.

Many schools hold social events to introduce new students to one another. You may also be able to meet new people in places like:

  • Your residence
  • Your classes
  • The library
  • At your student centre

Moving away from home

It's common for people to move out of their family home when they start their post-secondary education. Living independently presents many challenges like:

  • Financial management — budgeting, paying bills
  • Household management — cooking, cleaning, taking out the trash
  • Time management — you won't have curfews or strict rules
  • Making your own decisions — you'll be exposed to alcohol and drugs more frequently, you'll have to decide what's right for you (remember, you will now be expected to be responsible for dealing with the outcome of your decision)

Living away from your family may also leave you feeling alone. To combat loneliness try getting involved with other students by joining clubs, art groups and sports teams. Or try to learn how to enjoy your "alone" time.

Living with a roommate

Living with other people can be a source of both happiness and stress. You will be faced with issues like:

  • Respect of personal space and property
  • Differences in living styles
  • Differences in sleep habits
  • Different preferences for cleanliness
  • Different relaxation needs

It is important to be clear about your needs in order to adjust to this new living situation. The only way to do this is through communication.

  • Discuss your needs calmly
  • Listen to the needs of your roommate(s)
  • Recognize that there will be conflicts and you and your roommate(s) will have to compromise sometimes

More challenging academics

You may find that your academics are more challenging in post-secondary education. Some of the changes you may notice include:

  • Your course load will likely be heavier than it was in high school
  • You have less classroom time than you used to
  • You will be expected to complete most of your studies on your own time
  • Your class sizes may be much bigger than high school
  • Your instructors may be less accessible than they were in high school
  • No one will be holding your hand — if you miss your classes or fail to turn your work in no one will chase you down for an explanation

You are an adult now and are responsible for yourself.

Balancing your time

Many people have to balance a job as well as their studies in order to cover the costs of post-secondary education. This can be very overwhelming. It is important to recognize when it is becoming too difficult to juggle school and work. If it is too stressful, you may have to look for other ways of financing your studies, such as student loans or scholarships.

Try to keep in mind that post-secondary schooling is a both an academic and life learning experience. If you are finding that the adjustments are more difficult or are taking longer than you thought, try to remember how you have positively coped with stresses in the past. You may want to try exercising, developing and maintaining a routine or reaching out for support.

Talk to someone such as school support services, your family or friends. And remember that Kids Help Phone (1-800 668-6868) counsellors are always here to talk.


Last reviewed: September 2012 by the Kids Help Phone Counselling Team


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