The journey to self-regulation and identity
Aultman, Lori Price
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The transition from high school to college is a highly anticipated and celebrated rite of passage in a young person’s life. In contemporary society this multidimensional transition represents one of the first major steps into adulthood and manifold opportunities for personal growth. New social networks, new environments, and new identities as well as lives of increased autonomy, independence, and responsibility await these students. However, many students do not possess adequate coping skills, academic strategies, or resilience to easily negotiate the changes with which they are faced. Furthermore, success in this transition necessitates leaving behind the familiar environment and structure of home and family and integrating into a new culture, the college campus, with its inherent lack of structure or oversight. Therefore, the transition to college constitutes a multifaceted change requiring coping and self-regulatory strategies on academic, social, and emotional levels. An understanding of students’ experiences and meaning making while moving through this phase of their lives will allow the education community to better inform, support, and enhance a more seamless journey from secondary to post-secondary education. This longitudinal study examined the adequacy of an integrated model of transition, based on Schlossberg’s theory of transition and constructs from general models of self-regulation, in describing the transition from high school to college. Seventeen entering freshmen (12 females and 5 males) who were enrolled at the University of Georgia engaged in the research program for 18 months, beginning prior to enrollment through the first semester of their second year of college. Findings revealed a great degree of overlap and interaction between adaptation, coping, and self-regulation constructs related to transitions. A new integrated model of self-regulation and transition was proposed where the processes of self-regulation and adaptation to transition take place within a person-behavior-environment system. Conceptualizing transitions from both a macro level, defined as the life event itself, and the micro level, construed as the situations and smaller events that comprise the transition, is supported as a more useful approach in describing and intervening in the transition process.