If you’re heading to your first year of postsecondary education this fall, you may be wondering if you’re prepared to take on a new level of academic and personal responsibility. The good news is — you’re not alone.
Transitioning to postsecondary education is exciting, but there are some challenges too. This year also comes with unexpected hurdles as academic institutions adopt new digital learning or hybrid-learning education models to meet social distancing requirements and protect the health of faculty, staff, and students.
To help you answer some of these questions, we’ve spoken to Kate Lloyd and Denise Harding of Evoke Learning, a Toronto based academic tutoring, coaching, and mentoring organization.
KF: What will the biggest challenges be for students starting postsecondary school for the first time this fall?
Increased academic expectations and the requirement to work independently without the same type of external scaffolding that is provided in high school is often challenging for first year students. Postsecondary success depends on the student’s ability to be self-directed and to self-advocate. This year, students also have the additional challenge of navigating the complications related to COVID-19 and a primarily online learning environment. High school classes ended in mid-March creating a significant academic knowledge gap for some students transitioning between high school and post-secondary for the first time.
KF: Are there different considerations for current students returning to postsecondary school?
Student returning to postsecondary school will have to adapt to new pandemic realties and prepare for a different type of instruction and peer interaction than they have traditionally been used to. This situation will require a higher level of academic commitment.
KF: What are three key things students can do to set themselves up for academic success in a virtual school setting?
- Make a significant academic commitment
- Create an effective schedule and daily structure
- Work with an academic tutor, mentor or coach to master the skills and effective approaches for academic success
KF: You talk to a lot of students — what are some of the fears that are emerging?
Some students are fearful that they will not be academically prepared to meet the increased demands of the postsecondary curriculum due to a loss of learning during the last 3-4 months of high school.
Many students are also feeling disconnected from their peers and socially isolated, and they are concerned about how they will meet new people and make friends.
They are physically missing being in an academic learning environment and challenged by dealing with distractions related to learning at home and trying to stay motivated and engaged in an environment where they typically relax.
They also fear that there will not be enough real-life learning taking place, for example engaging in practical science labs, and they may not be prepared for their chosen profession with a degree that was earned remotely.
Everyone responds differently to stress and there is no one-way to mitigate anxiety around these situations. Some things students could think about include:
- Seeking out social support. To combat isolation, connect with friends and classmates via technology. Even something as simple as turning on your webcam during virtual classes can help you feel more connected.
- Practicing self-care. It is important to get enough sleep and exercise as well as maintain proper nutrition. Try out some mindfulness apps. Basic self-care helps keep us grounded during emotionally trying times.
- Focusing on things you can control and let go of trying to control what you can’t. You can’t control what other people do or the uncertainty about the future. You can only control your own thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Stay present and focused on what you can do today.
KF: What are some strategies that parents and families can use to support students during these unusual circumstances?
Post-secondary institutions offer a full complement of support services that students should take advantage of, and they should connect with student services to obtain a full listing of workshops and supports available during the term. Given the unusual circumstances created by the pandemic, it will be more important now than ever for students and parents to create a strong schedule and structure to guide student’s efforts as self-directed learners.
KF: We hear a lot about the coming challenges of Fall 2020 for students- but are there any benefits to what is happening now for students? How can families make the best of the Fall 2020 situation?
Online learning can offer flexibility and the opportunity to revisit lesson and lecture recordings to reinforce the student’s learning. Less travel time to and from campus and class can be reclaimed by the student’s study schedule allowing for more time to invest in academic work.
Many students with organizational challenges find it easier to manage themselves and their learning materials in an online environment.
KF: Thanks again to Kate Lloyd and Denise Harding at Evoke Learning for sharing these helpful tips on how to prepare for the upcoming school year!
Kate Lloyd is an Adler-certified professional coach, registered social worker, and is Director and Co-founder Evoke Learning — a Toronto based academic tutoring, coaching, and mentoring organization.
Denise Harding is an Adler-certified professional coach, an applied mindfulness meditation specialist, and certified learning disabilities specialist (LDGC). Denise works with Kate as Director and Co-Founder of Evoke Learning.
Learn more about Evoke Learning at https://www.evokelearning.ca/