How to Transition Successfully to University Life

Going from high school to university

The transition from high school to university is like no other. The environment, responsibilities, and expectations are a big change. There is finally freedom for everything that you do and no one to report to. You are responsible for showing up to the classes yourself. You will not be sent to the principal’s office or to detention for being late. But you do pay the price because there is a lot of material covered in the classes. You can miss a week of school in high school and still not miss much, but if you miss a class in university, it is the equivalent of missing two or three weeks of classes in high school.

You are responsible for your own grade the teacher will not be hunting you down and telling you that you that ‘your grade is low and here are some ways to improve it’ no you have to go to the professor during their office hours and see what you can do to improve your grade and what changes you can make with your studies. For viewing your marks you can see it on the school academic website.  You complete the assignments for the small grade that they are worth. It is not like high school where the assignments are worth a large portion. The assignments are not worth that much because you will have your mid-terms and final. That is where the majority of your grade comes from. You will not be tested every week but when you are tested there is a lot of information you need to know and be aware of. The class sizes are very large which it is hard to make friends when you only see them a few times a week. It can be hard to socialize and find out where you belong.

There are many resources that can help with your studies like the library, library website (for research papers), student learning services, tutors, etc. They are here provided by the school so you do better with your studies. With non-academics there is many clubs and perks on university. The clubs are really nice because they allow you to make friends and relieve stress. The perks are things like free gym, free transit, etc. The biggest difference for me it that it is hard for me to keep myself motivated in high school you had everyone around you motivating you, in university you are here for yourself.

What is motivation and why is it important

Motivation is what desires one to achieve their goals. The Oxford English dictionary’s definition of motivation is “the conscious or unconscious stimulus for action towards a desired goal provided by psychological or social factors; that which gives purpose or direction to behavior”. But my definition which is a student’s point of view is “The effort that one puts in to making their goals or dreams come true” It is not always easy to stay motivated so I suggest that coming from the transition from high school to university is to find what works the best for you to keep you motivated. If that is writing down a list of what needs to be done that day or remove yourself from the world for a few hours a day and just focus on what you need to do.

For me, writing down a list and crossing them off as I go help with my motivational level because doing this helps me actually see that I’m getting stuff done.  You need to stay motivated and focused on your goals. I have learned from the article “Self-Determination Theory and Work Motivation Theory”  that according to recent studies there are two types of motivation, extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. “Intrinsic motivation involves people doing an activity because they find it interesting and derive spontaneous satisfaction from the activity itself. Extrinsic motivation, in contrast, requires an instrumentality between the activity and some separable consequences such as tangible or verbal rewards, so satisfaction comes not from the activity itself but rather from the extrinsic consequences to which the activity leads.” (Gagne and Deci, 2005, p.1). By knowing the two types of motivation it will help you with achieving your way of tackling motivation and the best way for you to improve motivation.

Students lose motivation at school for a few reasons :

  • High levels of stress
  • They may think that their schoolwork is is too hard for them.
  • They may have procrastinated for a while and now have very limited time to get their work done.
  • They may have failed at something and are unable to pick themselves back up.
  • Their environment pulls them down or distracts them from achieving their goals.
  • They are not clear on what they want to accomplish.

What happens when you are motivated?

When you are motivated there is all sorts of things that will happen to you. When you are motivated you see changes academically, mentally, physically, etc. These all change because you have higher self-belief which is having the belief that you can achieve anything that you set out to. By having high self-belief you are able to conquer any task that you come across. The motivation comes from your adjustment in thinking. You are able to convince yourself that you can reach anything that you want. When I am motivated I think I can do everything! More importantly I WANT to do complete my school work because I have no fear that I will not be able to complete it satisfactorily. When this happens my self-belief gets higher and higher.

Here are 5 ways you can increase your motivation:

  1. Change your environment. The environment that surrounds you plays a huge role in how motivated that you are. When you have a negative environment surrounding you there is many reasons why you are not motivated. By changing the environment and surrounding yourself with people who have the same goals and desires as you and who are willing to push you to become your better self. When the external environment changes it has an influence on your internal environment causing you to see that you can actually make the change and you will want to improve leading to an increased motivation.
  2. Goal setting and Visualization. Goals improve your motivation because when you have clearing detailed goals you want to seek to do your best to achieve them. You will set out an outline of steps that will leading you to ultimately reaching your goal. By knowing what your goal is it will help you visualize your goal which will lead you to having an increased motivation because you are knowing what you want and where you want to be. So you will be motivated to get there.
  3. Learn from your mistakes. Learning from your mistakes will help because next time you will know what to do and what not to do so you will not be wasting time on trying to find the proper way of doing things. Learn from others mistakes as well. By watching how others do something and if they fail or succeed take note of that because you will not be wasting time on what you already know does not work. “Students with a more pronounced role in their educational process exhibit higher levels of motivation to participate in their future learning, which may further motivate them to recognize the value of their personal input” (Rissanen, 2014, p.6). By doing this you will be improving your motivation because you will not get defeated when something does not workout in your favor and you can make the changes so then they will work in the future.
  4. Reward yourself. Rewarding yourself is something that sounds juvenile but it is not really. When you reward yourself for the achievements that you have made then it is easier to do the next task and the one following because you want to be on the receiving end and you know how it feels. For myself I reward myself with something small when I complete a small task and something big when I complete a large task. It can be something like going out for ice cream with your friends or going to the party on the weekend. By having those rewards it will drive you to push harder to complete your task which will result in an increased motivation.
  5. Prove yourself. There is a lot of people out there who are just in your life to hold you back. They say things like ‘why are you even trying… you are not going to be able to accomplish it’ they are just the people who are jealous or cannot see the bigger picture. It feels amazing to prove those people wrong. “The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do” When people tell me I cannot do something it gives me more drive to actually be able to complete it which ends up driving my motivation and leading me to be a better self. But by having those people in our lives who are constantly telling us that we cannot do it we are selves start to believe them and will lose motivation that is something where you need to look at yourself and say that you can do it and you are going to prove yourself wrong. That is fixed by changing your environment and proving yourself. With having people who do not believe in us in our lives there is also those people who believe in us a 110% they are the people who are encouraging you and they know that you can do it. That is what gives me my motivation is showing those people that I can do it and they made the right call by believing in me. For me my parents pay for my schooling so I want to prove to them that it is not a waste of money. Proving yourself to others and yourself will ultimately improve your motivation because you are working harder to show that you can do great things.

Words of Support

If it is hard to motivate yourself find one thing or a place to motivate you. For me I cannot get any work done when I am in my dorm room because I get distracted with other things so I need to go to the school’s library and all of the other students working on their assignments motivates me. Remember that you are not alone with this transition and that there is a lot of the students around you weather they are in your classes, dorm floor, etc. They are all looking for people to be friends with and they are just starting or have all started in the same position. Join in with the schools activities and friends and you will find the place that you belong. It was hard for me to make the transition because in high school I had so many friends surrounding me. Now I have three and a few in each of my classes. Remember that your connections are very important so make as many friends as possible because you will never know where you will be one day. My mom always tells me a phrase when I am being lazy and not motivated it is “tomorrow never comes” that has really helped me because I know now that when I am being unmotivated I always look at that and see that it will still be there tomorrow along with a bunch of other important things. My brother also tells me something really important “Don’t look back a year from now to see what you could have done differently, start today!” Finding what your motivation is is as important as finding who you are.



Cohen, Jonathan. & Matthew Fulkerson. (2014). Affect, Rationalization, and Motivation. Review

of Philosophy and Psychology, 5 1-11, p. 5.

Gagne, M., & Deci, E. L. (2005). Self-determination theory and work motivation. Journal of  

         Organization Behavior, 26, 1-4, p.1.

Rissanen, A. J., (2014). Active and Peer Learning in STEM Education Strategy. Journal of Science

         Education International, 25, 1-7, p.6.

Simpson, J. A., & Weiner, E. S. C. (1989). The Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Ed. Oxford, United

Kingdom: Clarendon Press