Post-secondary student resilience

How to build resilience and minimize the impact of stressors during college or university. This resource helps students learn and choose healthy coping strategies.

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Why this matters

When they begin college or university, students may face significant personal and academic stressors on their own for the first time.

This resource can help build resilience and minimize the negative impact from stressful situations so that, rather than just surviving their post-secondary experience, students can thrive. 

Whether students complete this on their own, with their parents or friends, or as part of a school initiative, it can allow them to reflect on potential and actual stressors and choose healthy coping strategies to deal with them.

From Surviving to Thriving is not intended as a medical or mental health intervention. If the student is currently experiencing significant challenges, they should reach out for support:

Consider contacting a health care professional, the school’s student services, or Crisis Services Canada: 1 833 456 4566. For residents of Quebec only, please call Services de Crises du Canada: 1 866 277 3553.

From Surviving to Thriving is inspired by research on resilience and has been improved through feedback received by researchers, educators, students, and mental health professionals.

From surviving to thriving: Developing personal and academic resilience workbook includes the following sections. Some include a link to a short video or article to help explain the content:

This resource was originally developed based on the evidence in the citations below. As part of our due diligence, the resource was analyzed by McMaster University in late 2017. The results of that analysis were incorporated into a new version, which then underwent a pilot program evaluation at Queen’s University, completed in early 2019. Read the Pilot Program Evaluation Report

There is another version of this resilience resource that was developed specifically for those in the workplace. Plan for resilience: Workplace edition is for leaders, employees and the self-employed. It is also free and available in French and English.

Workshop resources

Building resilience workshop

This workshop can include employees, leaders, those that are self−employed or post−secondary students. You can tailor it to any combination of these groups. Participants engage in a journey of self−discovery while creating a plan to improve their resilience and developing healthy coping strategies for whatever life throws at them.

Additional resources

Be There Certificate. This exciting new course created by has been designed to increase mental health literacy and provide youth with the knowledge, skills, and confidence they need to safely support anyone who may be struggling with their mental health.

Well-being Hub from The Learning Portal of College Libraries of Ontario. Complete the Well-being Assessment to determine the areas of wellness where you are thriving and the ones that may need greater attention


Holt-Lunstad, Julianne; Robles, Theodore F.; Sbarra, David A. Advancing social connection as a public health priority in the United States. American Psychologist, Vol 72(6), Sep 2017, 517-530. Retrieved from

Holt-Lunstad, Julianne; Smith, Timothy B.; Baker, Mark; Harris, Tyler; Stephenson, David (2015); Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality: A Meta-Analytic Review, Perspectives on Psychological Science, Vol 10, Issue 2, pp. 227 – 237. Retrieved from

Marcotte, Diane; Villatte, Aude; Potvin, Alexandra. Resilience Factors in Students Presenting Depressive Symptoms during the Post-secondary School Transition. Elsevier, 23 December 2014, Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences. Retrieved from

Mayo Clinic Staff (2016). Need Stress Relief? Try the 4 A’s. Retrieved from

McCormick, Melinda (2016). Bullying Experiences and Resilience in LGBTQ Youth. Dissertations. 2473. Retrieved from

O'Connor, RC. (2011). Towards an integrated motivational–volitional model of suicidal behaviour. In Int. handbook of suicide prevention: research, policy and practice (eds O'Connor, RC; Platt, S; Gordon, J), pp. 181–198. Chichester, UK: Wiley.

Schutte, N.S., Malouff, J.M. The Impact of Signature Character Strengths Interventions: A Meta-analysis. Journal of Happiness Studies (2018). Retrieved from

Wong, Andrew H. C.; Yohani, Sophie, An Exploratory Study of Resilience in Postsecondary Refugee Students Living in Canada. Canadian Journal of Counselling & Psychotherapy / Revue Canadienne de Counseling et de Psychothérapie. 2016 Supplement, Vol. 50, pS175-S192. 18p. Retrieved from

Contributors include.articlesAlexis DorlandAllison Drew-HasslingAngela GerisBrooke LindenCassandra FiliceDavid K. MacDonaldDr. David BrownDr. Heather StuartDr. Ian M. F. ArnoldDr. James GillettErick KovacsHeather DrummondHeather GaffneyJianLi WangKaitlin KelloggKelsey PrettyLeah RosevearM. Suzanne ArnoldMary Ann BayntonMcMaster UniversityNatasha SheikhanQueen's UniversitySydney DowneyUniversity and Colleges Community of PracticeWaterloo University

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