Supporting Students in the Transition from High School to College

College Student Walking Out Door

The transition from high school to college is an exciting yet challenging journey for many students. This period of change requires students to adapt to new academic demands, increased independence, and a more complex social environment. Supporting students through this transition by focusing on executive function strategies can significantly enhance their ability to manage these new responsibilities effectively.

1. Enhance Time Management and Organizational Skills

Time management and organization are fundamental executive function processes that become even more critical in college. Encourage students to use planners or digital tools like Google Calendar or Trello to keep track of their assignments, exams, and other commitments. Introduce them to the Pomodoro Technique, which involves breaking study time into focused intervals with short breaks, helping to improve concentration and productivity. Teaching students how to create to-do lists and prioritize tasks effectively can also help them manage their workload more effectively.

2. Promote Self-Monitoring and Goal Setting

Self-monitoring and goal setting are vital for academic success and personal growth. Help students set CANDO goals for their academic and personal lives. Encourage regular self-reflection sessions where students can assess their progress and adjust their strategies as needed. Tools like journals or apps such as Reflectly can assist in this reflective practice, enabling students to identify areas of improvement and celebrate their achievements.

3. Build Flexible Thinking and Adaptability

College life is unpredictable, requiring students to adapt to new situations. Strengthening flexible thinking helps students manage unexpected changes and setbacks. Engage students in activities that challenge them to think creatively and approach problems from different perspectives. Role-playing scenarios or problem-solving workshops can provide practical experience in developing this skill.

4. Encourage Self-Advocacy and Help-Seeking Behavior

In college, students must advocate for themselves more than ever before. Encourage them to communicate their needs and seek help when necessary. Familiarize students with campus resources such as academic advising, tutoring centers, and mental health services. Role-playing exercises can help students practice initiating conversations with professors or advisors, building their confidence to ask for support.

5. Strengthen Emotional Regulation and Stress Management

Transitioning to college can be stressful, making emotional regulation an essential skill. Teach students techniques such as mindfulness, deep breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation to manage stress and anxiety. Encourage regular physical activity and adequate sleep, both of which are crucial for maintaining emotional well-being and cognitive function.

By integrating these executive function strategies, we can better support students transitioning from high school to college. Equipping them with these skills not only enhances their academic performance but also fosters independence and resilience, preparing them for success in college and beyond.

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About the Author

Caitlin Vanderberg, Ed.M., is a SMARTS Associate and an Educational Specialist. She leads the MetaCOG Surveys & Toolkit and provides academic support to students with learning, attention, and executive function challenges. Before joining ResearchILD in 2020, Caitlin worked as an assistant elementary school teacher and with many arts education programs. Caitlin holds an Ed.M. in Mind, Brain, and Education from Harvard University Graduate School of Education.


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