Five Tips on How to Transition from High School to College

Category Student Voices


Gabriela Class of '18 Alumni
Authored on November 17, 2015


Whenever I'm answering questions from prospective students a topic that always comes up is the transition from high school to college.

Is it hard? What can I do to have an easy transition period? How was your transition? The reality is that there isn't necessarily a right or wrong way to transition to college. Everyone is coming from a different background so naturally they will adapt in different ways. But, here are some tips to help make your transition a smooth one.  

1. Ask for Help
A lot of Harvard students are too scared to ask for help once they arrive on campus. I mean we are all super geniuses. We got basically straight As in high school. Why would we need help?

The reality is that you are engaging with new academic material here at Harvard and because of that you're going to struggle and you may need help. There's nothing wrong with you. Everyone struggles with their academics here, trust me. My freshman year I was riding the struggle bus. Honestly, I was probably driving it because I was struggling so hard with certain subjects, particularly economics. Because of that, I knew I needed to seek help. So, I asked friends for help with problem sets, sought out a tutor, and went to office hours when I could. Never be afraid to ask for help! 

2. Don't be afraid to fail 
First and foremost, I'm not talking about failing in terms of getting an F. The reality is that if you actually do your work you will probably not fail. But, a lot of students tend to get really worried when out of nowhere they get a B in a class, which can seem like a failure for students. It's like wait, what I never had this grade before. This isn't something I do. I mean I'm a straight A student! What's happening?

The reality is you might get a B or two or even three. It happens. Like I said earlier, you are engaging with new material here at Harvard and sometimes you will struggle with it. So, don't freak out if you suddenly get this ominous looking B. As long as you tried your best, there's really nothing more you can do. 

3. Explore new subjects so you can learn
Another thing that students forget about is actually taking the time to learn. When you're in college you can finally take classes simply for the sake of learning. You can engage with new material and learn some pretty cool stuff. So far I've taken classes about comparative politics, microeconomics, social movements, ancient Greek novels, discussing modern day feminism and so much more. College is the time for you to try something new. Hey you may know exactly what you want to concentrate in and do later on in your life, but why not try a new subject. You may be a Molecular and Cellular Biology concentrator, but maybe you're interested in talking about gender so you take a class in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality. 

You should always strive to try and learn something new because it can be fun. However, trying a new subject doesn't mean you will automatically enjoy it. I can tell you for a fact that to this day I still don't enjoy Economics nor am I truly interested in Comparative Politics. But, I am proud of myself for trying them out and don't entirely regret it. So don't forget to actually learn and try new things when picking your classes. 

4. Do what you like, not just to boost your resume
For me, a lot of high school was focused on doing everything right so I could get into college. Sometimes I didn't take the time to do things just because I wanted to do them. I would think about what looked best on my resume or what extracurricular would be the best on that college application. I think it's very easy to get caught up in trying to do all the "right" extracurriculars and classes. Concentrating in what's going to give you a job. Doing that extracurricular that supposedly looks really good on your resume but you're just not that into it. In the process, you just forget to just enjoy yourself. Take that class because you like it. Do that cool extracurricular. Even if they aren't the stereotypical courses or activities people do, odds are you will be able to earn the marketable skills that look good on a resume without having to do something you dislike. 

5.Learn to take time for yourself 
A very important skill to develop is learning how to take a step back from everything and de-stress. In college, so much can be going on that sometimes you want a chance to breathe. Maybe that means not going to that basketball game or not going out on Friday night to instead stay in and watch Netflix or whatever you do to de-stress. I know I had to learn how to take some time for myself to do things I love. Sometimes I'll decide to do my homework later (wouldn't recommend doing this often ;)) and lie in my bed and read a book. Other times, I'll get out my iPad and watch an episode of Netflix. Sometimes, I'll put in my headphones and dance around my room. It's really about doing whatever can help you de-stress and just enjoy yourself. So learn how to take those 5 minutes, 10 minutes, or even an hour to just relax. 

I hope these tips will help you as you continue through your high school career and eventually transition to college. You might mess up along the way, which is completely normal. Just try to enjoy it as much as you can! 

Gabriela Class of '18 Alumni