The big step from high school to tertiary education

Tips on how to deal with the changes

Leaving high school and beginning the next stage of your education is an exciting, but scary, time.

It can be a huge adjustment going from the familiarity of school classrooms to tertiary education, particularly with other changes that may be going on in your life. This truly is a step from being treated as a child to being welcomed into the education world as an adult.

When embarking on tertiary education, students need to find a comfortable balance between study and other priorities like personal health and wellbeing, friends, and family. At this point in your life, you might also be living somewhere new to allow you to study, you might be working or looking for work, and managing your time a lot different than when you were in high school.

Some students find these changes easier than others, but the main thing to remember is that you are not alone.


Adjusting to life as a tertiary education student

Some common issues that students may find stressful at this time include making new friends, living in new surroundings, adjusting to an unfamiliar teaching environment, coping with the academic workload, and learning to deal with new freedoms and responsibilities. This doesn’t have to be a negative experience, and with help and a few tips, you will soon find your feet and be able to embrace this new stage of your life!

Making new friends: Remember that all your new classmates are in the same situation as you and dealing with the same issues. Reach out to them if you need help, and make the effort to form friendships. A lot of campuses will offer informal gatherings and meet-ups that allow students to socialise, or if you are sporty you can check out what clubs are available and meet new people that way. Joining study groups is also a great way to make new friends.  

  • Living in new surroundings: Tertiary study may require you to move towns, cities, or even countries and this can be a huge adjustment. Stay in regular contact with your family and old friends, and if possible, take time out to visit your family or organise a member of your family to visit you. This will help alleviate homesickness and loneliness, and also help you to feel more at home in your new world.
  • A new way of studying: Attending lectures and studying at university or TAFE is very different from secondary school. For the most part, you are left to your own devices and have more responsibility than ever before. The tip is to be patient and give yourself time to learn this new method of study, learn how to effectively take notes, and prepare for tutorials and assignments. If you are struggling, ask your lecturers for help and guidance.
  • Managing your time: Finding a good balance between study, work, friends, family, and leisure is an important part of adjusting to your new life. While it’s easy to think you suddenly have all this “free time”, it’s important to stay focused on your goals and also your responsibilities. Although in tertiary education you will generally have fewer hours on campus or with your lecturers than you did at high school, you still need to remain focused on your studies. Your study timetable should include your various academic commitments, but also time for breaks and fun.

Seeking help

Starting tertiary studies can be a challenging experience for all new students. If you need help, start with counselling and other student support services at your educational institution. There are always a variety of services available for students. If you still feel you need help, speak to your doctor or local community health centre.

Ready to learn more?

If you liked this blog post, you'll love our courses.