Skip to main content

Transitioning to College

By September 29, 2016March 29th, 2021Article

Heading to college of the first time, or returning after a summer away, can be a big adjustment. Aspects of your day to day routine get turned upside down, from when you wake in the morning to how much free time you have during the day. Many college students find this adjustment to be quite jarring. So, if this is happening to you, your client, or someone you know, don’t be alarmed, you are not alone.

As a clinical psychologist, I have worked with hundreds of students who have nailed this transition. I have put together a short list of techniques that many of my students have found helpful.

  1. Survey Your Present Time Management Habits (see below for this tool)- This exercise will give you a sense as to how much free time you have, whether you are overcommitting yourself, and whether you need to make any adjustments. One of the things students often find when starting college is that they have too much free time. Students often don’t anticipate this will be an issues, but it can cause things such as “procrastination” to creep up, as students often get into the “I can do it later” attitude. Plan ahead! This leads to my next tool…
  1. Create a schedule (see below for this tool) – Once you have evaluated your use of time, it’s time to create a schedule. Include things that happen on a weekly basis- things that are scheduled or that need to get done. Make sure that you include all of your classes, travel time, study time (usually one hour for each hour of class time), labs, breakfast/lunch/dinner, sports/hobbies, sleep, personal care (time it takes to get ready in the morning), etc. This will give you a visual as to your “week at a glance” and allow you to see where you can fit in other activities, should you choose, or when you can sit back and relax. 
  1. Sleep Hygiene– Ensure that you are getting enough sleep. Pulling an all-nighter is not beneficial in any sense. Sleep helps with learning. This is the time when memory is consolidated. So, the best thing you can do before a big test/exam if to get a good night’s sleep.
  1. Self-Care– Everything in moderation. This includes a balanced diet, exercise, socializing, school work, social media/electronics, etc. You may be overwhelmed with the opportunities at college. It’s okay to say no and to set personal limits.
  1. Personal Strengths  We often forget to look within to examine how we have coped with previous transitions or past difficult times in our life. Ask yourself: What worked for me in the past? What didn’t work for me? What strategies/coping mechanisms help me when I am faced with a challenge? Using tried and true strategies are the easiest, as you know how they work for you and how they make you feel. 
  1. Ask for Help– If things get too difficult to manage reach out for help. Most colleges offer counseling services, academic supports, tutoring services, and library supports. If you don’t know where to go for help, ask a professor, resident advisor, or upperclassman. If you don’t feel comfortable talking with anyone directly, most college websites have an online listing of the services they offer and where you can go for help. 

Dr. Quynn Morehouse
Clinical Psychologist
Portland, ME
Work: (207) 773-7993, ex 26