Transition Theory and You

by Stefanie Lucas-Waverly
@stefanie_lucas

Another August has come and gone, and we have now made it to September. September feels like the settling in month, when we often start reflecting on our feelings of newness and transition.

As student affairs graduates and professionals we are often called upon to talk students through times of transition. Homesickness, getting acclimated to a new set of homework expectations, and finding a new friend group: all conversations we freely and openly have with students. Some of you might be feeling this way, and I would encourage you to be cognizant of how you feel during your transition.

One great resource is William Bridge’s Transition Model. Bridge’s suggests there are three stages of transitions people go through when they experience change. The stages are:

1.      Ending, Losing, and Letting Go
2.      The Neutral Zone
3.      The New Beginning




Bridge’s is a consultant and oftentimes works with companies and managers to help organizations through change. However, gaining an understanding of this model helped me better understand my personal transition to graduate school and through my transition as a new professional. This webpage explains the model well. As you read through the article, consider reframing to see how statements might help you through your personal transition. Here are a few examples:

Article Says: Don't get impatient or try to push people through to stage three; instead, do what you can to guide them positively and sensitively through the change process

Reframe: Don’t get impatient or try to push yourself through to any of the stages. Instead, be sensitive with yourself through the change process.

Article Says: It's important to accept people's resistance, and understand their emotions.

Reframe: Realize you might be feeling resistance. Try and understand why you are having these emotions. Why might resistance be coming up for you?

Article Says: Because people might feel a bit lost, provide them with a solid sense of direction.

Reframe: I might be feeling lost, what can I do or who can I reach out to start feeling a sense of direction?


It might feel strange to apply theory to your life or experience; however, it oftentimes helps to give greater meaning to how you might be feeling. If you are a new graduate student, consider reaching out to a faculty member to see if you can talk about transition as a cohort. Everyone’s transition will be different, but it is helpful to know you are not alone!

Student Affairs - the First Years

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