Two girls walking in the park smiling

Transitioning from school to further education

Our Activists and Teacher’s Insight Group have helped us develop advice and resources for school staff to help prepare pupils for the transition from school to further education.

medium-shot-of-a-young-man-in-blue-jacket-and-white-shirt-looking-serious-while-sitting-with-a-girl-with-curly-hair-and-hands-on-her-chin-while-looking-at-him-and-sitting-on-a-bench-with-two-other-people-on-foreground

Going on to further education can be very exciting, but it can also be a big change from life at school. It is normal for pupils to feel a mixture of emotions, from worries to excitement, from feeling concerned to having certain expectations for what it might be like.

Knowing what to expect and where to find support can help make this journey a little easier and a lot less daunting.

Pupils’ transition worries

Here are some of the worries our Activists say they experienced after leaving school.

  • Losing support network
    • Managing time with less structure than school.
    • Losing old friends, making new ones, feeling lonely. Who do I turn to?
  • No idea how 'it' works
    • How to apply and the process of getting in.
    • Change in learning methods and the expectation of independent learning.
  • Meeting new 'standards'
    • Having to conform all over again.
    • Judgement from others for being different and finding ‘my people’.
Academic worries are expected but the social worries around things like meeting new people, moving out and looking after myself - that was much scarier.

Myths and facts

Often, we know the information young people receive about further education can be confusing and, at times, misleading.

Take a look at our myths and facts with your pupils to help them navigate through this.

On the left is a cartoon drawing of a sand timer. Above the timer it reads in pink underlined: 'Myth'. Underneath 'myth' it reads in smaller text 'it will be the best time of your life. Make the most of it.' On the right of the image are three sets of stairs that lead up to three different open doors. Above the doors it reads in white underlined: 'Fact'. Underneath 'fact' it reads: 'It isn't the be all and end all.' Underneath the stairs the text continues: 'There is lots of other options open.'

On the left, there are lots of red question marks. Above the red question marks is some pink underlined text which reads: 'Myth'. Underneath 'myth' the pink text reads: 'You are instantly grown up and have all the answers.' On the right hand side the background is purple with three different hands in the air. Above the hands it reads in white underlined text: 'Fact'. Underneath 'fact' the text continues: 'Nobody expects you to have all the answers. It's okay to ask.'

On the left is three cartoon people with their backs facing the front of the image. Their arms are all interlinked. Above them is pink text underlined: 'Myth'. Underneath 'myth' the text reads: 'Making friends will be easy.' On the right are different shapes against a purple background, with some shapes in grey and some in red. Above the shapes is white text underlined which reads: 'Fact'. Underneath 'fact' it reads: 'It can be difficult to'. Underneath the shapes the text continues: 'meet like-minded people at first.'

On the left is a cartoon drawing of a map icon with a red pin above the map. Above the pin and the map in pink text underlined it reads: 'Myth'. Underneath 'myth' it reads: 'You'll find yourself'. On the right is a torch lit up with the light facing upwards against a purple background. Towards the top of the light, the text in white and underlined reads: 'Fact'. Underneath 'fact' the text continues: 'You will discover new things about yourself.'

On the left of the image is a cartoon brown signpost which has three arrows all pointing in the same direction. Above the signpost the text is pink and underlined, it reads: 'Myth'. Underneath 'myth' the text continues: 'Once you've decided you can't change your mind.' On the right is a cartoon drawing of six different lines which are green, yellow, purple, red, orange and blue. They are all intertwined with each other and going different directions. The lines sit against a purple background. Above the lines is white text which is underlined. It reads: 'Facts'. Underneath 'facts' it continues: 'You can leave and follow another path. It is not failing.'

Tips and advice to help students

What to ask on open days

Share with your pupils some of the key questions our Teacher’s Insight Group and Activists suggest asking on an open day or campus visit. For more information, take a look at our Fresher's survival guide.

University: A Freshers’ Survival Guide

  • What do you wish you had known before you started?
  • What does a normal week look like?
  • Is it everything you expected?
  • Are you glad you went to university?

  • Do you feel safe walking around at night?
  • Is it in a city or does it have its own campus?
  • Would I be studying on the main campus?
  • Is there plenty of green space to relax?

  • Can you change your course, and if so how far into the first year?
  • What extenuating circumstances do they offer?
  • How supportive are they if you struggle with your mental health?

  • What size is the union?
  • What societies or sports are there available to join?
  • Are they inclusive and accessible?
  • What late night support is available? Including safe transport home.

  • Which are the best halls?
  • Which ones would you or wouldn't you recommend?
  • Are there safe transport options in and out of the main campus?
  • Are there student representatives in the halls to support students?

  • Where would you go if you needed support with academic work/physical health/mental health/financial troubles/a crisis?
  • Do you feel supported?
  • Are you aware of wellbeing support/welfare support?
  • Do reasonable adjustment plans exist here?

  • Do you feel valued?
  • How easy or hard have you found it to make friends, and what helped with this?
  • Do you feel difference and diversity are celebrated here?

How can staff support their students?

Young people tell us that advice and support during the transition from school to university shouldn’t be standalone and there is a need for information to be shared across both schools and further education settings. Here are some of the things that can help:

Teachers in schools

    • Check in with students to see what feelings they have about the transition. They may well have mixed emotions about it, so initiating a conversation can help ensure you are hearing that young person at what is an exciting but often unsettling time.
    • Remind pupils it is normal to feel worried or anxious about this change and focus on the courage they have already shown in making this step.
    • Support pupils to understand their warning signs when they are struggling with mental health and help identify support available.

Staff in further education settings

    • Have an open conversation with students about what is essential and optional information when starting university. Try to avoid bombarding students with too much stuff at the start. Providing induction timetables and sources in advance can help.
    • Connect potential students with student representatives, reassuring them that it is okay to ask lots of questions.
    • Remind staff to look for signs that a young person might be struggling, and support them to take part in relevant mental health training.
Finding out about your university’s leave of absence or extension policy ahead of time can be helpful, so you know it’s okay if you need more time to complete your studies.

More information and advice

We have information and advice for young people as well as parents that you might find useful to share with students and their families about university and times of change.

teachers using YoungMinds resilience cards secondary pack

More resources for you

From wellbeing activities for schools, to toolkits and webinars for mental health professionals, we have a range of resources to help you support the young people in your lives. 

Discover our resources