Get top tips for coping with change as you move from school to college to uni.

A Student’s Guide to Coping with Change

Starting a new chapter in your academic journey can be both thrilling and daunting. Moving up from secondary school to college or sixth form and later to university or HE college are significant milestones. This is your go-to guide for navigating these educational transitions, complete with insights on coping with change, build resilience, make friends, overcome loneliness, handle increased responsibility, and thrive in your new environment.

Transition 1: Moving to College

Choosing Your Path

Your first decision revolves around the type of further education you want to pursue. Whether you’re opting for A-levels, vocational courses, or apprenticeships, it’s vital to consider your interests and career goals. This choice will shape your future educational journey. Having a decision that you’re happy with will make you feel more positive about the changes to come.

Embracing Change

College life is different from secondary school in lots of ways. Expect more independence, different teaching styles, smaller class sizes, maybe a less structured timetable, and increased academic expectations. Prepare yourself for what you think this new environment might be like. It might feel scary at first, but actually it’s an opportunity for more independence and to try something new.

Building New Connections

Making friends in college might feel intimidating, but remember that many students are in the same boat. Join clubs and extracurricular activities to meet like-minded individuals who share your interests. You’ll have the opportunities to try things you’ve never done before so make sure you take advantage of what’s on offer. If you’re not ready to throw yourself into college life straight away, don’t worry. Ease yourself into it gradually, they’ll be plenty of time to sign up for things later once you feel settled.

Coping with Loneliness

If you find yourself feeling lonely, don’t despair. Loneliness is a common experience during transitions. Be proactive in reaching out to classmates, attending social events, and seeking support from college counselors. Not everyone finds it easy to cope with change or make friends straight away. It’s a lot to take in, so be kind to yourself and ask for help if you need it.

Handling Responsibility

With increased independence comes more responsibility. You’ll learn time management, budgeting, and self-care. Balancing your academic commitments with personal life is key to a successful transition and will help build the skills you need for later life.

Hear from local students talking about their top tips for starting college:

Transition 2: Progressing to Higher Education (University)

Selecting the Right Course and University

Choosing your course and university is a major decision. Research thoroughly, considering factors like course content, location, and financial considerations. Make sure your choice aligns with your career aspirations. Visit the campus, find out about local facilities, choose accommodation that suits you best (if moving away from home) and take time to prepare yourself for the change to come.

Academic Rigor and Independence

University academics demand more independent study and research. Develop effective study techniques to manage your time and workload, and don’t hesitate to seek support from professors or academic advisors. In the first few weeks, get to know your timetable, study periods, libraries and online resources. Try to find a routine that works for you so you can stay on track and meet deadlines. You’ll need to be really organised so make lots of notes and invest in a good student diary!

Adjusting to a New Environment

Moving away from home can be challenging. Managing finances, homesickness, and the demands of university life all require adjustment. Reach out to support services on campus and connect with other students experiencing similar challenges. It’s natural to feel a bit lonely at first, but everyone has to branch out sometime and you’ll soon find living independently has lots of advantages too. Keep in touch with family and friends from back home and arrange regular catch ups to keep your calendar full in the first term with lots to look forward to.

Exploring Personal Growth

University is a time for personal growth. Embrace a growth mindset by viewing challenges as opportunities for learning and improvement. Be resilient in the face of setbacks. Remember that you’re adjusting to adult life for possibly the first time by yourself. It’s a big deal, so recognise the steps you’re taking and enjoy the key milestones you achieve along the way.

Coping with Change Strategies for Both Transitions

Stay Informed: Keep yourself informed about application deadlines, entry requirements, and support services available at your institution. Knowledge is your ally in navigating change and there’s always somewhere you can go to for help.

Seek Guidance: Seek advice from teachers, career counselors, or older students who’ve been through these transitions. They can provide invaluable insights and mentorship. There’s pastoral services and student helplines at college and uni, plus a range of confidential online support too if you need it. Remember you’re not the only one who’s been through this.

Stay Connected: Maintain connections with friends and family from your previous educational stages. Their support can be a lifeline during times of change and keep you grounded whilst you manage the change to your new environment.

Stay Positive: Remember, change is a part of life, and every transition brings opportunities for growth and self-discovery. Maintain a positive outlook, and believe in your ability to succeed.


Transitioning to further education and higher education is an exciting journey filled with new experiences. By embracing change, building resilience, seeking support, making friends, and staying positive, you can not only survive coping with change but also thrive in your new educational environment. Embrace these transitions as opportunities for personal and academic growth, and you’ll set yourself up for success in college and university. Your future is bright, and these transitions are just the beginning of your incredible journey!

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