Post-secondary school: How to stay focused

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If you’re entering post-secondary school (e.g. university, college, technical school, etc.) after high school, it’s important to think about how you’ll manage the transition and stay focused in your new environment.

Post-secondary school can be an exciting, fun — and sometimes challenging — life experience. You will meet new people, dive into more advanced academics and explore a different place. The following tips can help make the transition from high school easier, and help you stay focused on what you need to do in post-secondary school:

  • Be accountable: post-secondary school can be busy, and it’s often less structured than high school. For example, your new instructors may not break your homework into daily assignments, but may expect you to do a certain amount of studying each week. Making a schedule of important dates and deadlines (e.g. exams, projects, etc.), planning study sessions and attending your classes regularly can help you stay on track. (An agenda, or the calendar on a phone/computer, can be great tools to use.)
  • Set goals: post-secondary school can be fun, but also a lot of hard work. It’s important to set attainable goals for yourself, and plan a way to achieve them. (Writing your goals down on paper is a good way to visualize your successes as you check off each to-do.)
  • Pace yourself: there may be a lot of new things to get used to at post-secondary school. It’s important to give yourself time to adjust to your new routine. Be sure to take a moment to just “be.”
  • Get involved: larger campuses/class sizes can be a lot to take in, but it’s important to make connections in your community. Getting involved with a club or group that interests you can help you build up your skills and expand your network. (If your school has a website, you may be able to find a list of opportunities online.)
  • Be social: putting yourself out there can help you meet new people and enjoy your experience. Try to take advantage of the social activities your school has to offer (e.g. daily events, group outings, etc.). Most people in your classes and residences will be looking to meet new people and make friends, too.
  • Stay in touch: some people may experience feelings of loneliness and isolation at a new school. Keeping in touch with friends and family (via texts, phone calls, visits, etc.) can help you adjust and stay focused.
  • Look ahead: between tests, projects and extracurricular activities, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. Try to look at the big picture whenever things get rough. Always try to remind yourself why you’re in school in the first place.
  • Take care of yourself: in order to excel at school, it’s important to take care of both your mind and body. Try to eat right, sleep well, work out and practice self-care.
  • Find support: school, work and a social life can be a lot to balance. Building relationships with your peers, instructors and roommates can help you manage and get support. Remember, Kids Help Phone’s counsellors are available 24/7 at 1-800-668-6868 if you need to talk.

Sometimes, it can be helpful to hear tips from other people going through the same experiences as you. Check out these words of wisdom from two current post-secondary school students:

“Post-secondary school is a lot like a balancing act — you’ll have tests, projects, work, volunteering and a whole lot more on your plate that you somehow need to get through. In the midst of all of this, it’s very important to remember that you and your health come first. Don’t be afraid to turn down certain opportunities or to say no!” — Kids Help Phone NYC member

“Don’t be afraid to reach out for help whenever and wherever you need it. Post-secondary is full of ups and downs, and it’s key to remember that even in the down times there are places that are safe for you to be, people who care about you and resources for you to get back up after getting knocked down.” — Mehul Gupta, Kids Help Phone NYC member

Post-secondary school can be fun and rewarding, but it can also be a challenging and difficult time. It’s important to find ways to cope with the transition from high school and stay focused to make the most of your experience.

Kids Help Phone would like to thank Mehul and our National Youth Council (NYC) for their participation in and contributions to this story!