Five ways to prepare for the move to a post-secondary school
Starting early can ease the transition
BARBARA BALFOUR As a learning strategist, Joanne Dominico has seen it all. The academic success coach and TEDX speaker who works at Centennial College in Toronto is a passionate advocate of selfcare as a way to build better resilience both inside and outside the classroom.
From exponentially larger classrooms and higher workloads to living away from home for the first time, navigating the transition from high school to postsecondary studies can be overwhelming for any young adult.
Here are Dominico’s Top 5 tips on how students can set themselves up for success before they even start classes.
1. PRIORITIZE YOUR SELF-CARE NOW
Dominico suggests getting adequate sleep, eating nutritious foods, drinking lots of water and exercising regularly.
“Whenever I meet with a student for the first time, I always ask them about their self-care before getting into any study skills,” says Dominico. “This is because it is very difficult for your brain to learn if it’s exhausted or dehydrated. I’ve seen proper selfcare make the difference between passing and failing for several students, so I recommend starting your semester off with those habits already strongly in place.”
2. ESTABLISH A TIME MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
“Many students with whom I meet feel very overwhelmed when they realize how challenging it can be to keep track of everything that they have to do, while simultaneously trying to cram all the course content into their brains,” says Dominico. “This is why I highly recommend that students work to set up some sort of external system for keeping track of where they have to be and what they have to do.”
Whether they prefer an agenda, a calendar, computer or a smart phone is up to students — what matters is that they’re writing things down, so they don’t forget, and that they start now, she says. That way, when the semester begins, students already have a system in place that they can rely on.
3. FIND HEALTHY WAYS TO MANAGE YOUR STRESS
The demands of postsecondary education can cause many students to feel anxious when combined with a job, their religious beliefs and their family, relationship and other personal commitments.
“Having a stress management plan or simply knowing how to calm yourself down and de-stress when needed can be super helpful when times get tough,” says Dominico. “For some students, going for a run or talking to a friend may be their go-to option for when they need to release some tension, while others may find that meditation or taking a nice bath helps them to recharge and take a well-needed break.”
4. DISCOVER HOW TO LEARN AND STUDY EFFECTIVELY
“Post-secondary means larger class sizes, increased workloads and higher demands than many students are used to. In my experience, most of the students I meet with start college or university thinking that they can use the same study methods that they used in high school. Not a good idea,” explains Dominico.
“It is extremely important that students take the time to learn about how they learn best and what study methods are the most effective for them to not only retain, but to also understand and be able to apply the information they’re learning.”
Many institutions have resources in place to support student learning, such as tutors and learning strategists. Seek their support before you start your program so that once you begin, you will already have a toolbox of strategies to try.
5. LEARN FINANCIAL AND HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT SKILLS
This is especially important if you will be living away from home for the first time, says Dominico.
“If you don’t already know, you can start learning how to cook and clean, and how to budget and pay bills now. Your parents or guardian will likely be very happy to teach you these skills or you can search online and teach yourself!” she says. “Establishing these skills now will be one less thing you have to worry about learning as you are adapting to post-secondary life.”