Merriam-Webster defines transition as a passage or evolution from one state, form, or style to another. One transition obvious to my experience is motherhood. Another natural transition for me is visiting a foreign country.
I would like to compare these transitions to preparing for college, and make the case for spending more time doing so, because it will result in a more fulfilling and useful experience.
When I was preparing to physically have a child I had approximately nine months to carry the child to term, as well as become ready to be the child's mother. I experienced changes beyond the ones taking place in my body. My emotions and knowledge were in a constant flux from both pregnancy development, and the feedback from all of the people who knew about this experience and wanted to imprint mine with their opinions. This contributed to my level of joy, and of fear.
Complete strangers would approach to share their determination of date of birth, my size, gender, and ask for a feel of my growing abdomen. I neglected to plan for my experience being so public.
Successfully traveling to a new country also takes much preparation. Learning about basic and appropriate phrases, eating customs, greetings, modes of transportation, currency, and safety allowed me to have more realistic expectations. There were so many opportunities to mess up and learn more, that my initial preparation seemed minor once I was on the ground. I wouldn't want to be helicoptered in with a bottle of spring water and a Big Mac, but remember years ago some fellow travelers feeling that brushing their teeth with Pepsi was safer than seeking out local bottled water?
When it becomes clear that current high school seniors are going to college, they will have a limited time to determine what to take from their life now, and will have to imagine how it won't feel the same in the fall. What they know and the kudos they receive for that will evaporate as they take their place among others also coming from high school.
Teachers, parents, relatives, friends, and counselors will all have observations to share even though this is a personal journey. Anticipation, joy, and fear often comes from a type of ignorance of reality. Learning about the geography and local customs won't diminish those emotions as much as provide a direction to go in with first steps.
The best time to help a high school senior plan for transitioning is now. Just like thinking about where to go on that trip, or what it might be like to have a baby. It means there is no need to cram everything into the week before orientation, along with the emotional goodbyes and feverish trips to Bed Bath and Beyond.
It might begin as simply as printing out a college map and finding where to buy a cup of coffee.