Graduation cap resting on a pile of books next to a globe
25 June, 2021

Starting postsecondary can make people feel a variety of emotions. Excited, anxious, happy, overwhelmed, timid, and curious. These are all natural responses to beginning a new and unknown chapter of your life. Change can be scary. This blog post should hopefully help you feel more prepared for your transition as it will cover the main differences between postsecondary and high school. 



In high school, you have many resources to keep you on track. Your parents, teachers, counsellors, etc. are all knowledgeable of your academic struggles and are eager to provide accommodations and help guide you through your high school career. In post-secondary, you will be considered a fully independent adult. This means that you will be responsible for your own behaviour, accommodations, studying schedule, and habits to name a few. When it comes to academics, your professors, and teaching assistants (TA’s) won’t be checking in on your progress or tracking you down in order to get you to submit an assignment. It is up to you to stay on top of your workload and stay motivated. Here are some tips to adjust to these changing expectations 

  • Practice self-advocacy! You must advocate for yourself and inform your teachers, TA’s and the accessibility services office at your school about any disability if you wish to disclose that information and receive accommodations. 
  • Find an accountability partner! Find a friend and hold each other accountable for going to class. This way you can motivate each other to attend class!
  • Remember why you’re here! Remind yourself why you are pursuing post-secondary education and what you want to get out of your experience. This can help motivate you to stay on track with your courses. 



Most students in high school will have classes every day or every other day where you’re taught new material from your teachers and you’re usually given time to engrain new information into your brain through class activities and homework. This is not the case for most post-secondary courses, which can have varying class structures. Some courses have lecture times 1-3 times a week. Some courses have lectures but also require you to attend tutorials or labs. Some courses are taught solely online and it is up to you to go through the class modules. As you can see, your schedule will be very different from what you are used to in high school! Also, since you have less time spent in class, lectures can be fast-paced and cover a lot of material. If you start to feel overwhelmed with the pace, that’s okay! Many students feel this way during the first few weeks of class. Here are some tips to adjust to the changing pace: 

  • Stay up to date! Schedule time into your week where you can spend a couple of hours on each course either taking notes from the lectures, revising your notes, catching up on readings, or working on future assignments. This will help you be prepared and less stressed for when midterm and exam season comes around.
  • Connect with the teaching team! Most professors and TA’s will post their office location and hours where you can visit them to ask questions to clarify any material. If you can’t find their hours, shoot them an email and set up an appointment to meet with them--they are there to help if you reach out to them! However, make sure you come prepared with specific questions as they are not there to re-teach you an entire lecture.
  • Be attentive! Sit at the front of class or lecture hall in order to reduce distractions.



In high school, most teachers will provide you time in class to work on assignments, study for a test, or practice new material. This is not what happens during a post-secondary lecture! Post-secondary lectures are where professors present new material in order for you to listen and take notes. This means that you will have to study any new material you learn outside of class on your own time. Depending on your class schedule, the number of courses you take, your participation in extracurriculars, or working a part-time job; you could be way busier than you were in high school! This means you will have to create your own schedule in order to prioritize your commitments which includes taking the time to study. This is where organizational and time management skills come in handy. Here are some tips to adjust to this changing workload: 

  • Review the syllabus! Write down due dates and exam times on a calendar or somewhere you won’t forget about! If you find that you have multiple assignments and/or exams on the same day or week, you might be able to receive accommodations in order to change certain deadlines.
  • Write down start dates! Plan ahead and write down dates that you plan on starting your assignments so you can give yourself enough time to finish your work, along with the assignment due date. 
  • Don’t procrastinate! Leaving assignments or studying until the last minute can leave you feeling stressed and unprepared.



I remember my first exam at post-secondary; I was extremely nervous! Not knowing what to expect going into an exam can be very nerve-wracking. It’s okay to feel nervous even if you are prepared! Here are some tips for writing exams in post-secondary: 

  • Avoid cramming! Give yourself enough time to study so you don’t wait until the last second to cram it all in. Look at your exam schedule and write a study schedule so you can give yourself enough time to prepare for every exam.
  • Check out your school’s academic success services! This is where you can find online or in-person resources to help you become better at time management, studying, and preparing for finals. 
  • Take time for yourself! There is a misconception among students that exam season is when it’s okay to stop exercising, eating healthy, socializing, and getting a good nights’ sleep. This is not true! It’s important to take breaks and give your mind time to rest. This can increase your productivity and exercise helps reduce stress!


These are a few examples of how post-secondary and high school are different. Remember, this is just to make you aware of the upcoming changes, not to intimidate you. Post-secondary is an amazing experience that you should not be afraid of. This post should help you recognize and be better prepared for what to expect when continuing on to post-secondary. Good luck and have fun!


Author: Julia Coupland, Student & TRG Summer Staff

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