Transitions: Student Reality Check is the first publication of its kind in Canada to help students overcome some of the many issues they face as they begin their university or college life.

Stress at university

University is exciting but also stressful for many youth.Youth face a number of issues at university including how to study effectively, how to become more self-confident, and how to make new friends.


Studying is more than cracking open a textbook and reading. The Transitions Project, Sun Life Financial Chair in Adolescent Mental Health, IWK Health Centre, offers the following tips for studying smart.

  • Ask questions. Ask your instructors about which areas are most important to review.
  • Make a plan. Give yourself time to review all material and more time for the areas you have identified as more difficult.
  • Organize yourself. Put sticky notes on the pages you need to study more carefully and lay out the material so you can easily review.
  • Highlight key points. This will help for quick scanning of material and the highlighted words may become embedded into your mind.
  • Don’t rush. Be sure not to move on to new topics until you feel confident with the material you just covered.
  • Take breaks. Go for a walk and get away for just 10 to 15 minutes every hour or so.
  • Sleep. If you’re tired, nothing is really going to sink in so be sure to get a good night’s sleep.  Maybe take a short nap if you need to.
  • Ensure no distractions. Study where you know you won’t be interrupted.  Shut off the TV and avoid studying around other distractions.
  • Join a study group. Joining a group will help you with difficult areas and challenge you to keep up with the group.
  • Avoid caffeine.  Coffee, pop and energy drinks like Red Bull contain caffeine.  While caffeine helps you stay awake, it also increases feelings of anxiety and restlessness.  So if you feel yourself getting tired, just take a short nap and avoid the caffeine fix.
  • Do not put off today…  If you feel overwhelmed with material you need to study, break it down into manageable steps.  Putting it off will not help.
  • Create study sheets.  Write down the major concepts in point form for quick reference (like flash cards for reviewing).
  • Plan your answers.  Sometimes it helps to think of questions that might be on the exam and create an outline of the answer.
  • Remember that studying is more than reading.  Studying is active and requires more concentration.

If you’d like to learn more, visit You’ll find lots of information on the Transitions Project – and the mental health of youth.


There are lots of bright, creative, and energetic people at university and college – and that includes you. Sometimes it can be tough to see yourself that way. Building self-confidence is important. The Transitions Project, Sun Life Financial Chair in Adolescent Mental Health, IWK Health Centre, offers the following tips to help you.

  • Stop the inner critic. One of the most important things to do is to tell the negative voice in your head to be quiet.  If someone else compliments you DO NOT listen to that little voice in your head causing doubt, just say thank you for the compliment and be proud of yourself. Talk to yourself as you would talk to a friend.
  • Think logically. Don’t assume negative reasons are always the cause of an event.  If someone walks by and doesn’t smile at you, don’t assume it’s because they don’t like you or think you’re weird.  It’s not always about you!
  • Practice self-care. Put yourself first, eat a healthy diet, exercise, get enough sleep and take care of your appearance.  You are worth the effort.
  • Give yourself credit. Speak clearly and loudly, especially when you have something you want to say. Your opinions are just as important as the next person’s.  If you disagree with someone, tell him or her in a positive way. It may be hard to do at first but once you do, you’ll feel better about yourself and people will listen to what you have to say.
  • Take risks. Don’t be afraid to fail or embarrass yourself. Try new things and consider them opportunities to learn and grown.
  • Have fun. Get out and do something you are good at and enjoy doing: Activities like shopping, playing a sport, listening to music, watching a movie or reading a book.
  • Forgive yourself. If you don’t do as well as you had hoped, so what!  Let it go, you can’t win ‘em all. Just know you tried your best and had fun.
  • Get support. Talk to your friends. It’s ok to “vent” once in a while; that’s what friends are for.
  • Be positive. No matter what, think of something positive in every situation!

If you’d like to learn more, visit You’ll find lots of information on the Transitions Project – and the mental health of youth.

Making friends

There are lots of people at university and college; some of them may become your life-long friends. Others may be study buddies or coffee mates. Of course, meeting new people and building a friendship can be scary.  The Transitions Project, Sun Life Financial Chair in Adolescent Mental Health, IWK Health Centre, offers the following tips for making friends. 

  • Introduce yourself. Don’t wait for people to come talk to you, get out there and introduce yourself to others in your residence and classes.
  • Party. If you’re an extrovert you probably want to go out and have a good time, so why not join the crowds?  Don’t worry about not knowing anyone at a party – half of them won’t know each other so feel free to be yourself.
  • Don’t hide out. If you’re going to do your homework, consider going to a common area like your residence lounge or outside in a park, unless you study better in a quiet secluded area. You may also want to consider group or partnered studying.
  • Leave your residence room door open. This makes you more approachable and open to getting involved with whatever is going on around you, but remember to use your judgment and be safe.
  • Be chatty. Join in class discussions or ask your classmates about homework.  You’ll come across as more friendly and approachable if you are more open.
  • Join a sports team or a club. This is the easiest way to meet people with similar interests to you.  There are always groups or clubs of people with similar interests.  If you are into reading, join a book club.
  • Get a job. Working seems like it would take up a lot of time, but if you do have a bit of time to spare it may be a good thing to do. Not only will you build connections with your coworkers but also you’ll get a little bit of extra spending money!
  • Show up early to class. It’s easier to break the ice when there are just a few people waiting for class to start.  You can share information about anything from the weather to your homework.
  • Invite someone to go for coffee with you. A lot of classes allow breaks, so go with the crowd or ask someone who seems similar to you to go with you for a coffee or snack.
  • Listen to other people talk. If you hear someone is in need of something, offer to help out if you can.
  • Be open. Remember not to judge people. You will be exposed to new cultures and values that may be quite different from your hometown and high school friends. Try not to judge. You may learn something from someone different than you and make a really good friend.
  • Smile & Laugh. It shows you’re friendly and people are naturally drawn to happy people.
  • Open your posture and keep your head up.  Crossing your arms and legs sends signals that you’re uptight, shy and unfriendly – maybe even snobby.  Keeping your head up and arms open makes you seem more relaxed and sociable.
  • Make eye contact. Making eye contact shows you want to be involved.
  • Go online. For quieter people, the internet is an excellent resource for making friends and chatting.  Visit or Twitter do a Google search for other chat sites.
  • Be interested in people and ask about them. Don’t just talk about yourself, strive for true dialogue.

If you’d like to learn more, visit You’ll find lots of information on the Transitions Project – and the mental health of youth.

Transitions is copywritten material created by the Sun Life Financial Chair in Mental Health team, lead by Dr. Stan Kutcher and created by Jacqueline Boucher. Individuals or groups Interested in using or obtaining transitions can access the full materials at: