Beginning post-secondary school is a major transition period. Between navigating new
social circles, adapting to a new learning environment, and discovering who you are
along the way, post-secondary students have a lot on their plate! It is no wonder that
most students feel nervous, or even overwhelmed at times. Thankfully, we have some
practical tips that you can implement today that will help support you as you embark
upon your post-secondary journey.
1. Create a Routine
We get it; it’s tough to find your groove when so many things are new! Creating a
routine for yourself can be a great way to provide some structure and
consistency while you adapt to being a post-secondary student. Try waking up
and going to sleep around the same time each day, and add a few things in your
schedule (e.g., going to the gym; eating meals; class times) that you can rely on
to give your days some consistency and structure.
2. Establish a Sleep Schedule
This skill tends to be simple, but not easy! With so many new things to do and
people to meet, setting a sleep schedule might seem… well… kind of boring. But
trust us – having a sleep routine can make a world of difference to your mental
health and overall wellbeing! Try setting a regular time to go to bed, as well as a
routine wake-up time before you begin classes. This way, your body is used to
your sleep schedule by the time the semester starts, and you can start the school
year feeling refreshed and ready to go!
3. Explore Your Campus… Before Classes Start!
Lost on campus – it’s a canon event. Most students have at least one story to tell
about struggling to find their class… after the class began! One great way to
avoid this common stressor is to visit all of your classrooms and lecture halls
before the semester actually starts. That way, you know where you are going,
and perhaps know where the nearest coffee shop is along the way.
4. Connect with New People
If this tip sounds a bit daunting, rest assured, you are not the only one feeling this
way. Most first-year students are new to the campus (and maybe even the city!)
and are seeking new connections too. If you are living on residence, introduce
yourself to your neighbours! You can also try starting up a conversation with a
classmate (asking what program they are in, or if they are living on campus can be a great place to start). Joining a club, sports team, or a society is also a great way to connect with likeminded students. Oh, and don’t skip the first-year orientation events. Some of the activities might seem a bit corny, but everyone who attends is along for the same ride!
5. Remember to Nurture Old Relationships Too
If you are starting post-secondary school, chances are you couldn’t pack up all of
your old friends and bring them along with you. With that said, those old friends
are still important, and keeping up with them can help keep you feeling
connected and supported. So, create a group chat or schedule in a phone call!
Continuing to prioritize time for valued relationships almost always pays off in the
6. Create a Budget
Whether you are still living at home or have moved out for school, having a
budget can help reduce financial stress and make sure you allocate expenses
realistically advance! Remember to include the necessities first (e.g., food,
parking, etc.), and then consider adding in some room for unplanned expenses
(e.g., social outings, nights out, etc.) afterwards.
7. Get A Calendar Going
Whether it’s a virtual calendar, or an old-fashioned agenda, having your semester
planned out in advance (in writing!) is one of the best ways to reduce stress and
reduce your chances of missing things. When you get your course syllabi, write
down all of the big dates (e.g., assignment due dates; exam dates; etc.) and
when you plan to start working on them. This way, deadlines don’t creep up on
you, and you can allocate your time accordingly!
8. Keep Your Living Space Tidy
It can be hard to focus when your space feels cluttered or disorganized! Plus,
depending on the size of the mess, cleaning up can also be an added stressor.
One of the best ways to keep things neat and tidy is to get things organized when
you first move in (and before classes start!), and then regularly maintain your
living space on a regular basis. If you have roommates, having an agreed-upon
chores schedule can also help!
9. Set Achievable Goals
The transition into post-secondary school can be overwhelming at times. Setting
reasonable and achievable goals can help boost your confidence and keep you
motivated to keep moving forward. Try setting two or three attainable goals for
your first semester, write them down somewhere where you can see them, and
see how they go! Pro tip: look up ‘SMART goals’ online – it’s a great format for
making sure your goals are not only attainable, but well-structured too!
10. Seek Support Early
One of the most effective ways you can take care of yourself heading into post-
secondary school is to make sure that you have supports in place in advance (or
at least know where to access them). For example, if you need learning
accommodations, seek out academic support services before your classes start
so that you have all of the tools you need to get started on the right foot.
Likewise, if mental health support is something that feels of value, get connected
with support services early. You don’t have to struggle on your own or wait until
things hit a breaking point to get the support you need to thrive.
Remember, if you find that you are really struggling with the adjustment, reach out to your support network, university counselling services or a private therapist for more support.