Transition to University: Not Just a Piece of Cake.

Big changes can be emotionally intense for some individuals. A good example of this is the transition that many students endure from higher education to university.  Although circumstances differ for each individual, many choose to move out of their family home and into halls of residence. This new independence can be overwhelming.  Consequently, a proportion of students can experience anxiety, stress or forms of depression.

Research into this transitional period, (Smith and Hopkins, 2005), found that there is a great difference between the expectations of the individual and the actual reality of university.  For example, the student may not expect the difference in difficulty when beginning to study at a degree level. From personal experience, I find that it is also hard to learn how to manage your money at first. Many students do not have jobs prior to university thus do not have experience in managing their money.

Students who have incongruent expectations of university may find themselves confused and likely mentally unprepared, worsened by the distance that now may exist between their family and themselves. Fortunately help is at hand for those who choose to seek it.  These days universities provide counselling services and there are often plenty of independent counsellors in local communities who are able to provide accessible, confidential and non-judgemental support.

The article (Smith & Hopkins, 2005) suggests that attending open days is a good way of smoothing this transition to university. Open days offer students a chance to see the environment they will potentially be living in. The experience provides them with a better sense of what to expect.  Also, researching thoroughly into the university usually proves beneficial.

Perhaps schools need to provide more information on making the transition to university for those who apply. I am aware of individuals who knew very little about what to expect as their sixth form or college had not provided any information on how university differs in terms of workload and level of study.

University students in the lecture theatre

It will most likely prove difficult to fully resolve student transition problems, yet efforts should still be made to help this aspect of student mental health. Induction weeks at university traditionally help with easing students into the way things run, as well as broadcasting information on available support services.  It is usually found that initiatives to help students largely have a positive impact.

More information on transition to university:

  • J. Briggs, J. Clark & L. Hall – Building bridges: Understanding student transition to university –
  • Photo by: