A group of young people laughing together outside on a bench. Group includes two black girls (one in a wheelchair), one black boy, and a white boy.

Transitioning from school to further education

Mental health in schools

This resource covers:

Advice and practical tips to support school staff in preparing their students for the transition from school to further education.

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

Below 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.

  • 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?
A group of two young people and an adult sitting on the grass in the park and laughing together.

More tips and advice

Get more tips and advice in this fresher's survival guide written by our blogger, Zohra.

University: A Freshers’ Survival Guide

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. Below are some tips that can help.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Support pupils to understand their warning signs when they are struggling with mental health and help identify support available.
  1. 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.
  2. Connect potential students with student representatives, reassuring them that it is okay to ask lots of questions.
  3. 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.

Whether you love the page or think something is missing, we appreciate your feedback. It all helps us to support more young people with their mental health.

Please be aware that this form isn’t a mental health support service. If you or a young person you work with is in crisis right now and wants to talk to someone urgently, find out who to contact on our urgent help page.

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This form is not a mental health support service. We cannot reply to this. If you or a young person you know is at immediate risk of harm, call 999 and ask for an ambulance or go to your nearest A&E. If you are worried about the mental health of a young person you work with, you can signpost them to our website or suggest they contact one of these helplines: Childline (for under 19s) on 0800 11 11; or Samaritans on 116 123.

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