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From Getting In To Getting There

Updated: 2 days ago

It’s June, and students have gotten their university offers and gotten in. Yay! Another guidance cycle has concluded. But what about getting there?? 

For most international students, going to university is the culmination of their high school education. Fair enough. But life doesn’t end with the offer. High school does, but with university a new stage of development begins. Much recent research shows that nurturing the transition between the two is crucial to students' future well-being and success.

Innumerable factors will affect the ease with which a student transitions from high school to university. Some are knowable, and include family, finances, expectations, and a student’s life skills. Then there are the countless dynamics and circumstances -- a mismatched roommate or illness -- that can’t be predicted. But there are areas in which counsellors and student advocates can be more proactive to help students prepare before they leave, and where universities can provide support before and after they arrive.

FIT FIRST. Just as FIT is essential to helping students choose the right school, FIT should provide them some assurance that they will survive the transition once they get there. To be sure, a right FIT school doesn’t erase those initial anxieties and challenges. FIT isn’t automatic and it takes effort. But having confidence that it’s the right school in the first place will provide students with confidence that they will belong and thrive. Helping students to tune out the noise early, do the research, and focus on FIT when applying and considering their offers is a gift that every counsellor can give.

CONNECT EARLY. For many international students, the most confusing part of the high-school-to-university transition may be culture shock and homesickness, since they anticipate these least. Students who have repeatedly crossed continents and transferred schools tend to consider themselves inoculated against “the shock of the new.’’ Moving within a family structure with its familiar roles and routines, however, is one thing; moving without it is another. Since much of homesickness is a function of the loss of familiarity, counsellors can encourage students to be proactive to begin building a sense of belonging in their new campus communities even before they arrive. Universities are increasingly organising any number of online and in-person activities and resources for new students over the summer precisely to facilitate these connections. (Note to students: read your email and register.) Once at university, required and periodic check-ins with new students would provide additional assurance that they are on track and connected with any resources they might need. If students can feel a bit less isolated during those initial days, it will make the transition easier.

ASK FOR HELP. The freedom of post-high school life is double-edged. Students are exhilarated by the freedom to do and freedom from, but often surprised and overwhelmed by the new responsibilities for. Having become accustomed to being ''chased'' by counsellors and teachers to manage their school lives, they will now have to do the chasing themselves. It’s a switch. Encouraging students in junior and senior year to use Google calendars and other organisational and notetaking tools is one small fix that can help them cultivate the increased independence and agency they will need later.

Students also need to understand and accept that doing more for themselves doesn’t mean being an all-knowing, multi-tasking, self-reliant super hero. It often means asking for help. This can extend to asking a question in class, reaching out for advice to friends, or accessing student services to get support. Asking for help is necessary and human and part of being a self-aware and successful adult. This is a crucial lesson and hopefully a source of relief for students as they anticipate being on their own. 

A healthy transition to university begins long before the application process starts, and before a student arrives on campus. It probably takes a village, but an active partnership and targeted support among counsellors, faculty, families, and the university community can help ensure that students thrive once they get there. 

University Bound can help.

Contact us at joanna@universitybound.

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