Maunder, R., Gingham, J. and Rogers, J. (2009) Transition in higher education: exploring the experiences of first and second year psychology undergraduate students. Paper presented to: British Psychological Society Psychology of Education Annual Conference, Preston, 30 October - 01 November 2009.
The transition of students into higher education receives much attention due to the fact that the educational environment may be different from students’ previous learning experiences - presenting challenges for adjustment. As a result, there has been growing interest in areas such as student induction into university life; student preparedness for higher education, and the first year experience - all with the aim of supporting the smoothness of transition for students and subsequently improving their performance, satisfaction and retention (e.g. Harvey, Drew & Smith, 2006). It is unclear however how individual students experience and reflect on this process in an in-depth qualitative way. In order to explore this, six current first and second year undergraduate psychology students studying on a full time basis participated in individual semi-structured interviews about their experiences of transition in higher education. A focus group with six students was also conducted. Data was analysed thematically using an inductive semantic approach (Braun & Clarke, 2006). Themes were identified relating to personal growth; development of social connections; lifestyle transition; the progression of transition and the need for preparedness. Experiences were mediated by prior expectations of university life, on or off campus living, level of social support and the stage students were at in their course. Additionally, transitions between levels of study were noteworthy to students’ experiences alongside their initial transition in to higher education. Findings will be discussed in relation to the growing body of educational literature on student transition and the practical implications for university practice