Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Gary Cameron

Advisor Role

Dissertation Supervisor


Drawing on conceptual knowledge regarding normative life transitions and primary prevention and using a panel-design survey methodology, this study investigates factors that continue to student adaptation during the move from high school to university. All participants were first-time, full-time, first-semester students enrolled in biological or environmental science programs at a mid-size publicly funded university located in southwestern Ontario. Participants were surveyed twice: once prior to university entry and a second time following completion of their first-semester. The study determined that the vast majority of students view this transition as a normative life event, with most feeling ownership for the decision to attend university, believing this is the right item in their lives to be at university, expecting to attend and feeling prepared for university, and having good feelings about going to university. However, particular areas of concern perceived by students included: the way their interpersonal relationships might change, the length of time it might take to adjust, and the stresses associated with the first-semester. Using a principal components factor analysis, the study also found that student adaptation is best understood as a comprehensive and multi-faceted construct that includes students social attachments at university, their feelings about themselves, and their academic achievement. Multiple regression analyses reveal that each of these adaptation factors is predicted by quite different input variables: social attachment is predicted by social support variables, self-feelings is predicted by both transition perceptions and social support variables, and academic achievement is predicted by admission average and number of stressful events experienced during the first-semester. These findings are discussed from the perspective of primary prevention, highlighting in particular their implications for the structure, content and timing of interventions that promote successful adaptation.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season