January – the month named after the god of transitions

January 2022 and trying to make sense of where we’re at in transitions from school to university remains challenging. For students in the UK, year 13s, seniors will be sitting their first set of exams in a few months’ time with the content still largely TBD. In the meantime, continued disruption to education is ongoing with students and staff sick with COVID. Elsewhere across the world, keeping abreast of current rules remains challenging. Given all that what advice can I give?

Actually, there is is only a single person, a student, who is transitioning from school to university. I know colleagues will have heard me talk about the value of an ‘I’, but that is worth repeating. To the student who has now applied to university, I ask, what can YOU control? You can be responsible for your own revision of subject content. You can read. You can practice past exam papers. Despite the uncertainty, you are the fixed point.

For students just beginning their university research, this is the time to take a good hard look at yourself. So many people have an influence on what we do, parents, environment, friends, teachers. Picking out what YOU think is hard to untangle.

I often ask students (and parents) to consider their heart as well as their head. Ignoring one or the other is rarely going to end well. ‘I want a good name’ – ‘I want somewhere where I can have fun’ ignores where YOU can thrive. Being constantly outside of your comfort zone is just as uncomfortable as a permanent menu of chocolate, even if you’re a chocoholic.

Really then I’m talking about balance. January is a time when we look back and we look forwards.

However, I’ve become very much aware that an individual school student (unlike a teacher, advisor, or a parent) has a different sense of that comparison. As an advisor, I use my experience of the past to inform the advice I give. But for the student, there isn’t that sense of what was.

Hence, when I’m talking to students, my role is to listen and to question. What are you thinking? What are you feeling? That requires a degree of introspection. But most of all, it needs a student to be honest with themselves.

As January ends then, take a look in the mirror and think about what you see. A photo-shopped, Instagram ready picture isn’t a true reflection of who you are day in, day out. Tuning into the kind of person and student you are rather than the one you think you want to be is a first step to taking stock of where you are now. From there, I can start a conversation and offer advice to you.