Transition methods

These methods are measures or procedures intended to ensure a successful transition from secondary school to college, and can be made up of various actions. The following transition methods are intended for staff members working with students with disabilities, social maladjustments or learning difficulties at the secondary and college levels.

Transition methods list

Clear, complete and quality information allows students to prepare for a successful transition to higher education. To provide this information, colleges may organize individual or group activities intended to explain the services offered to future college students. For example, they can:

  • Distribute information documents addressing the concerns of students with disabilities, social maladjustments or learning difficulties in Secondary IV and V
  • Share these information documents with the parents of these students, either by email or via the students
  • Organize information sessions for students and their parents that are jointly hosted by guidance counsellors from secondary schools and colleges
  • Organize information kiosks on the topic of adapted services in Secondary V classes to share information about the reality of college studies, in the spring before students begin college
  • Plan to have an adapted services counsellor visit Secondary V classes to share information about the reality of college studies
  • Plan communication methods or pair up college students with disabilities and secondary-school students with disabilities
  • Meet with all the students with disabilities, social maladjustments or learning difficulties who may need accommodations when transitioning to college in order to provide them with information about divulging their disability

Additionally, it is recommended that schools provide all the information relevant to school transitions (such as program requirements, the resources and assistance services available) on their website and social networks.

Parents can also provide guidance to their children if they are well-informed about the reality of pursuing a college education and contribute to the development of their children’s autonomy. This is why it is important to have parents contribute throughout the transition process.

The academic and professional orientation process for students with disabilities, social maladjustments and learning difficulties must be based on their potential, goals and interests. It must also take into account the specific requirements of the program of study and the internship and workplace environments in the desired field. Therefore, guidance counsellors must inform students of the potential obstacles that they may encounter due to their disability and support them in searching for solutions. To do so, counsellors can:  

  • Plan a visit to the college in the spring before the start of courses, accompanied by an adaptive services counsellor from the chosen college. This path may be particularly helpful for students with an autism spectrum disorder or anxiety, as well as for students with some specific challenges related to managing change.
  • Work in collaboration with the other professional staff who are involved with the student’s file (i.e. psychologist) in determining the student’s educational project and preparing for their transition. This collaboration can allow for a better evaluation of the student’s profile and needs.
  • Participate in communities of practice bringing together members of their professions. These spaces for discussion can be the preferred forum for collaborating on adapting some orientation tools to the specific needs of students with disabilities, social maladjustments or learning difficulties.

Educational practices and the amount of work assigned to individual students differ greatly between secondary school and college. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that competencies in reading, writing and note-taking, along with organization and time management strategies, are sufficiently developed for students to achieve college success. To do so, secondary school teachers may:

  • Provide a course outline to students in Secondary V at the start of the school year (as is done in college) that provides information on the material to be studied during the year, the dates of future examinations as well as deadlines for work to be submitted. This is a way to assign students responsibilities related to their learning and to show them the advantages of acquiring the autonomy necessary for college studies.
  • Share strategies for note-taking, reading and writing that can be reused during general education courses in college, such as in literature courses.
  • Suggest various evaluation methods to allow students to learn about time management, school agendas and study habits.
  • Have students complete research projects or integrative projects in order to allow them to develop their synthesis and reflection abilities.

Some students may require more significant support during the process of transitioning from secondary school to college. For example, students with an autism spectrum disorder or who have significant difficulty dealing with change may benefit from having a transition plan. In order to ensure this plan is successful, it is recommended that school administrators:

  • Ensure that an adapted services counsellor from the student’s future college, a parent and a member of the teaching staff (or a resource teacher) are present at the transition plan meeting.
  • Obtain the free and informed consent of the student (and if applicable, their parent) to share the adapted services files from secondary school with their future college. The copy of the file sent to the college must include the diagnostic evaluation reports, the most recent individualized education plan and any other information that the school deems relevant.
  • Organize one or more visits to the college before the start of the school year. These visits allow the student to meet the adapted services office personnel, members of the teaching staff in their program of study and the support staff of the college.

Professionals working in the education field must adapt their interventions to the diversity of student needs. Available data shows an increase in the number of young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 years old with an autism spectrum disorder This hyperlink will open in a new window. who are registered in post-secondary studies. Therefore, it is essential to provide them with appropriate support, especially by:

  • Preparing a transition plan for students with more significant support needs during the transition, in collaboration with professional staff at the secondary school and college, the student and parents
  • Organizing visits to the college before the start of classes and meetings with adapted services staff, teachers and professional staff
  • Ensuring professional follow-up with the student during their first weeks at college
  • Ensuring that support and adaptation measures are consistent between the secondary school and the college as long as these measures continue to meet the needs of the students, the requirements of the program of studies and the realities of the college
  • Offer the student an adapted schedule
  • Encourage the student to participate in activities that encourage social integration (welcoming and peer assistance groups or peer mentoring programs)

The quality of the transition from secondary school to college is greatly influenced by the beliefs, expectations and anticipated outcomes of students, and by their perception of the quality of parental support while they adapt to a new environment. Specifically, what students in Secondary IV and V anticipate is waiting for them at college can influence how they adapt when the time comes, either positively (the student prepares to face the change and sees their internal motivation increase) or negatively (for example, a student develops anxiety). Some studies show that students who show a higher level of anxiety in secondary school are more likely to wind up on a risky emotional, social or academic trajectory in college.

Additionally, feelings of anxiety are the greatest risk factor for students and are more significant determinants than average academic results in secondary school, problems with attention and aggression, or poor study habits (Larose, 2020a). Thus it is important to act early, starting in Secondary IV, to support students who have negative expectations about their transition to college and who are feeling anxious, using various interventions:

  • Take advantage of all the opportunities to inform students about the reality of college studies and therefore, remove some myths or false negative beliefs. Group workshops on the transition to college and managing stress and anxiety may be offered to some students, based on their needs. The more informed that students are about what is waiting for them in college, the better they will be able to adjust their perceptions, deal with their worries and anticipate their transition to higher education with confidence.
  • Fight against the stigmatization of mental health issues by developing preventative services in secondary school and promoting the support services that are already available.
  • Support the development of students’ socio-emotional competencies (e.g. by implementing targeted and appropriate interventions, by sharing self-help resources).
  • Offer individual follow-up meetings to students with a high level of anxiety related to their transition to college.
  • Plan a visit to the college and a meeting with staff in the spring before the start of the courses.
  • Focus on resilience: rather than trying to eliminate all sources of stress, anxiety or failure, it is more beneficial to have students in transition develop resilience, which is defined as the ability to overcome defeat and adversity (Wilson et al., 2019). To do so, it is especially important that teachers and stakeholders at school help students to develop their sense of personal effectiveness and a belief in their ability to succeed in the transition to college.

Sharing information between secondary schools and colleges is facilitated by the possibility of direct communication between the people responsible for the transition. Therefore, it is recommended that all secondary schools and colleges:

  • Designate one person to be responsible for the school transition, such as a guidance counsellor in secondary school or an adapted services counsellor in college.
  • Publish the professional contact information of the person responsible for transitions in schools in the region.
  • Allow the persons responsible for the transition to participate in regional round tables that bring together participants from various levels.
  • Encourage networking activities involving academic and career guidance service staff from secondary schools and adapted services staff from colleges.
  • Collaborate to create methods for transmitting necessary information so that students with disabilities can be quickly provided with services in college.
  • Ensure that all students with disabilities, social maladjustments or learning difficulties have a copy of their diagnostic evaluation report and individualized education plan before they leave secondary school. This can be verified during a short individual meeting or phone call to students or their parents.

The role and responsibilities of the resource persons dedicated to the transition must be defined by each institution. Although they can act as counsellors and coordinators, the responsibility for a successful transaction is shared between administrators at secondary schools and colleges, teachers and other professionals.

College teachers have expressed that they need to be informed about:

  • The specific needs of students with disabilities
  • The institutional procedures related to providing accommodations
  • The procedures for welcoming and support services
  • The role and responsibilities of people responsible for interventions
  • The processes for defining an accommodation
  • How a student’s learning difficulties affect the classroom experience

The Centres collégiaux de soutien à l’intégration This hyperlink will open in a new window. have a variety of tools, available in French only, intended to demystify invisible disabilities and to support teaching staff in adopting inclusive pedagogical practices This hyperlink will open in a new window..

Additionally, colleges are invited to support the development of knowledge regarding the needs and realities of students with disabilities. To do so, it is particularly recommended that they:

  • Plan, at the start of the school year and through the Direction des études, training sessions and discussion forums regarding the variety of situations faced by students with disabilities.
  • Invite the staff members responsible for adapted services (or services to students with disabilities) to present the accommodation measures that are offered to students.
  • Plan information and discussion sessions during department meetings. These sessions may allow participants to identify assistance measures adapted to the requirements and reality of the program of studies.
  • Provide ongoing support to teachers who show interest in adapting their pedagogical methods to the needs of students.
  • Make relevant tool kits available to teachers so that these kits can be consulted when it is necessary to meet specific needs.
  • Present the advantages of using inclusive practices to remove obstacles standing in the way of integrating students with disabilities. For example: digital access to course materials, the use of the principles of universal design for learning while creating pedagogical and evaluation activities, etc.).
  • Integrate the principle of cognitive educability This hyperlink will open in a new window. and social educability into teaching practice in order to help students develop their metacognitive capacity. Cognitive educability consists of improving learning and adaptation abilities.
  • Have a positive attitude  about the ability of student communities to learn in order to increase their feelings of personal effectiveness.

See the pedagogical tool box provided by the Centres collégiaux de soutien à l’intégration This hyperlink will open in a new window. (primarily in French, but there are a number of tools available in English).

Divulging their disability early allows students quick access to the services and accommodations necessary for their academic success. In order to ensure appropriate guidance for students who are newly admitted to college, it is recommended that colleges:

  • Enclose a consent form regarding divulging a disability with the letter of admission. Explain the advantages of disclosure in terms of access to support services.
  • Also enclose a brochure describing the mission of adapted services, the contact information for a resource person and the methods for making an appointment. A form for declaring functional limits and making an appointment can also be enclosed.
  • Invite the person at the secondary school responsible for the transition to give students with disabilities, social maladjustments or learning difficulties the form used by the college of their choice for declaring functional limits. When there is only one college in the region, provide all students with the form.
  • Distribute a self-identification form to all students who have just been admitted to college. This form can provide an opportunity to disclose a diagnosis and initiate contact with adapted services staff.
  • Students who have already consented to having their personal information shared by the secondary school can receive a courtesy call from the adapted services office. An introductory meeting can be planned before the start of the term, allowing the students’ needs to be evaluated and a preliminary individualized education plan to be created.

The transition to college studies requires students to learn about “the student profession,” which involves acquiring new skills, including planning, managing time and priorities, taking notes, writing and synthesizing information, etc. Therefore, it is essential to provide students with the necessary tools to adapt and succeed. Therefore, colleges are asked to:

  • Offer workshops to new students targeting the development of essential competencies for perseverance and success, such as understanding syllabi, research using the library or effective study methods.
  • Integrate these activities into the content of the compulsory courses provided in the first semester of college studies.
  • Support students in managing stress and anxiety related to the transition to higher education.
  • Offer some students with disabilities ongoing educational support intended to assist them in learning strategies adjusted to their limitations, the use of technological assistance and academic, personal and social integration.
  • Offer short programs to welcome students and integrate them into their program of studies, including remedial activities for knowledge essential to success.

Social integration of new students is a key component of educational success. Peer support programs are very effective. These programs contribute to the development of personal resources, self-esteem and self-confidence and improvement in the quality of life. For students with disabilities, support from a person who has overcome similar difficulties is an important motivating factor. Therefore, it is recommended that post-secondary institutions:

  • Suggest that students with disabilities participate in programs that pair them up with other students and mentors. These programs must allow students to be paired with students in their second or third years, and who ideally have overcome similar difficulties related to a disability.
  • Promote peer-assistance training to the student community, especially to students enrolled in programs related to the support provided, such as social work techniques or special education.
  • Offer students access to peer tutoring programs, especially in subjects that are particularly difficult.
  • Suggest support groups for students with academic difficulties or symptoms of anxiety.
  • Provide ongoing and positive support for tutors and peers who are providing assistance.
  • Pay close attention to the integration of students registered in distance education and allow them to participate in welcoming activities on campus.

See the Campus Peer Support Toolkit This hyperlink will open in a new window..