How to Succeed After High School – Survival Secrets for College Students


These secrets for college survival are from psychologist Lauren Saler, who focuses on how to achieve academic and social success after high school. Her tips for college students will make the transition from high school to college successful and enjoyable!

Before the tips, a quip:

“A professor is one who talks in someone else’s sleep.”  ~ W.H. Auden





Here’s a key tip for surviving college for new students: don’t fall asleep during your lectures! For more info on achieving college and school goals, read Survival Secrets of College Students by Julia Johnston and Mary Kay Shanley.

And, here are Dr Saler’s tips for surviving college for new students…

How to Succeed After High School – Survival Secrets for College Students

“Entering college is a major transition and the process of emotional and physical separation is a time of growth and adjustment for the entire family,” says Dr Saler. “Students are separating from their family, establishing their identity, developing academic goals and new relationships, and taking on financial and other responsibilities.  Added adult pressures coexist with higher academic and family expectations, and the student’s own goals.”

Be aware of the obstacles to a successful transition from high school to college. “College students can face homesickness, dropped grades, alcohol and drug use, anxiety, depression, and lowered self-esteem,” says Dr Saler. “Some are eager to experience the adventure and freedom of college.  Others are enthusiastic but then encounter disappointments.  And still others anticipate that leaving home will be difficult. ”

If college tuition and student loans are a concern, read 3 Tips for Cutting College Costs.

Tips for College Students Before School Starts

Show your parents (and yourself) that you’re ready to be a successful college student by:

  • Wakinge yourself up in the morning and learn to do your own laundry.
  • Starting to budget and learn about debit and credit cards.
  • Asking your parents about their own separation from their parents, including their college survival secrets and what helped them.  You’ll better understand the other’s point of view!
  • Enjoying the months before college.  Appreciate your old friends and history together.
  • Making a list of your strengths. Keep the list handy to review, especially in uncertain times.
  • Setting academic and social goals at college

Survival Secrets for College Students



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  • Give yourself time. It takes trial-and-error to feel fully settled in.
  • Don’t rush to choose a major. Choose a major you are passionate about, not one that others push.
  • Get to know your professors. If you struggle in a class, approach them first. You are your best advocate.
  • Make choices about alcohol and drugs that support your goals and keep you safe.
  • Use the internet for school and socializing but don’t spend too much time on it.
  • Come to an agreement with your roommate about staying up late, paying bills, overnight visitors, etc.
  • Make time for yourself, get enough sleep and exercise.
  • Get involved in activities to make friends and feel connected to your school.
  • Ask for help when you need it. There are school supports dedicated to enhancing your experience (i.e. academic advisors, counseling center, residential life, etc.)
  • Learn as much as you can about student success in college

Tips for Coping With Your Parents

  • Use your parents as resources. Being an adult includes depending on them for advice.
  • When parents drive you nuts, let them know in a clear and kind way.
  • Parents can live vicariously through their college student children. When needed, remind them gently that this is about you.
  • If you are on top of deadlines, let parents know!  It will help them with their anxiety.
  • Do not see your parents’ anxiety as a no-confidence vote in you.  Your college status is a change for them.  Like you, they will learn and grow.

If you’re not motivated to study – but you want your college diploma – read 5 Ways to Stay Motivated to Go to College – From Bored to Inspired!

Signs College Students Are Struggling

“Bumps in the road are inevitable,” says Dr Saler. “Reaching this milestone is a testament to parental accomplishments, and an incredible achievement for a child.  Offer your child room to grow their personal, academic, and social selves under your supportive, gently challenging, and accepting eye.”

  • Feeling sad, anxious, or lonely more often than not
  • Using too much alcohol and  drugs
  • Unexplained physical problems
  • Inability to set or attain goals
  • Academic difficulties
  • Overeating/under-eating
  • Frequent arguments with family or friends

Sometimes supporting your college student involves backing off and giving him or her space. Let him make mistakes, and hopefully learn from them!

If you have any questions or tips for surviving college, please comment below…







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Dr. Lauren Saler is in private practice in Ardsley, NY, and has been a psychologist at Pace University in Westchester County for over 15 years.

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