Transitioning to College: Characteristics Needed for Academic and Personal Success

College kids think they have the skills needed when transitioning to college, but they don’t, so says the research. As students start their college journey, they encounter new challenges and take on new responsibilities. This extends beyond academics and their ability to deal with these new parts of their lives will be a factor in determining their college success.

In this guide, we’ll explore some tools that will help students in preparing for college. Sending your student off to their new chapter in life prepared will make college the fun and learning experience it should be.


Once a student gets to college, things do not always go as expected.

Students need to have the ability to solve problems for themselves through self-awareness and self-advocacy. The ability to think flexibly, creatively, and critically is an excellent way to find the path to success.

Students are on their own for the first time and need to be able to come up with their own solutions. However, having an awareness of the different campus departments and an understanding of what each one of them does and how they can help is also a piece of the problem-solving puzzle.

New students need to know which adults can support them in righting the path when unexpected things happen. While they might be going solo for the first time they should know and use all the tools available to them!

Time Management for College Success

The importance of time management cannot be underestimated when it comes to students independently managing their lives in college.

New college students need to learn to effectively manage their time between their academic, social, and self-care needs. One major difference between high school and college is that college students spend much less time in the classroom compared to high school students.

Students are responsible for learning a significant amount of information through extensive reading and other assignments that are done outside of class. This requires them to have the ability to independently structure and manage their free time to complete and prioritize lengthy assignments, engage in a social life, and take care of themselves.

It also makes it necessary for students to manage their responsibilities independently including handing assignments in and arriving to class on time, accurately judging how long tasks will take them, and making and keeping appointments.

Often well-meaning parents have helped their student manage their activities throughout their school career. Unless a parent is attending college with their child, the child will have to manage their commitments independently.


Self-awareness can be an important factor in succeeding in any pursuit, including tackling college.

For a student to take responsibility for their learning, they need to understand their learning style, any learning-related diagnoses, and how these elements impact their functioning academically, socially, and beyond. Reflecting on themselves and what they can improve upon, and what is already serving them well, will help college students find success. This skill will also serve them well in life in general.


Strong self-advocacy skills are a must as students transition to a post-secondary setting. Students are required to become their own advocates in college.

Parents have often played a large role in helping their students through high school. But without a parent around on a day-to-day basis, new college students will need to learn to fend for themselves. They need to be able to identify when they need help or when they need to seek clarification.

Equally important is knowing who to ask for help and what resources are available to them.


It is important for students to learn self-regulation skills as they make the transition to college. Students need to learn to manage their feelings and employ strategies to stay calm, even when stressed or anxious.
At home, parents often ensure that their students follow important self-care practices such as receiving enough sleep and limiting screen time. A new college student often becomes responsible for these things for themselves for the first time.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for college extends beyond academics. Students need self-awareness, self-advocacy, motivation, resilience, and self-regulation. They must understand their learning profile, rights, and accommodations. Self-advocacy skills are crucial for seeking help and requesting accommodations. Preparing students early ensures smoother transitions and greater independence. Though all parents desire to help their students begin delegating some self-responsibility early so that they can take care of themselves when the time comes to leave the nest.


Would your college-bound student benefit from a little support?

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Sometimes, college students need a little extra support in time management, prioritization, organizing, and study skills. The Success in College program will set up your student for academic success based on consistency, structure, and accountability.

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Transitioning to College: Characteristics Needed for Academic and Personal Success