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OpenAI. (2023). Serene Japanese Garden [Digital image]. DALL·E Image Generator.

The transition from high school to university can be both exhilarating and challenging for students as they adapt to heightened academic expectations and responsibilities.

While there are existing support structures, students can benefit from supplementary viewpoints and practices to facilitate this transition.
Learning to interact and understand other cultures can be integrated with the provision of invaluable insights that align with aspects of the high school to university transition in Australia.

Key Japanese Philosophies and their Core Concepts

Several Japanese philosophies underscore self-improvement, the quest for purpose, societal contribution, and resilience:

  • Zen Buddhism advocates for an empty mind, ego detachment, and self-overcoming through meditation (Suzuki, 1959).
  • Ikigai emphasizes finding one’s purpose by harmonizing passion, mission, vocation, and profession (García & Miralles, 2018).
  • Neo-Confucianism champions the utilization of education for the betterment of others and the broader society (Huang, 1997).
  • Concepts such as mushin (no-mind) and shoshin (beginner’s mind) inspire a present-focused mindset and a fresh perspective on things.


OpenAI. (2023). Traditional Japanese scrolls illustrating philosophies [Digital image]. DALL·E Image Generator

Transition from High School to Australian Tertiary Experience

The fundamental values of these philosophies resonate profoundly with the transition from high school to university in Australia. This shift demands heightened independence and self-direction, correlating with the self-improvement philosophy. Students’ pursuit of purpose in their academic endeavours mirrors ikigai. The motivation to make a positive societal impact aligns with neo-Confucianism. Moreover, fostering resilience by maintaining a clear mind and sustaining curiosity facilitates better adaptability (Tinto, 1993; Kift, 2009).

5 Practical Applications for a Smoother Transition

Here are some actionable recommendations for high school students transitioning to university, grounded in these Japanese philosophies:

1. Allocate time for meditation and introspection for enhanced concentration and mental clarity (Kabat-Zinn, 1994).







OpenAI. (2023). Zen Buddhist monk meditating in a tranquil Japanese garden [Digital image]. DALL·E Image Generator.

 2. Recognize your passions and strengths to pinpoint studies or activities that resonate with your purpose.

  • Ikigai BBC – Ikigai: A Japanese concept to improve work and life
  • Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means “reason for being.” It encompasses the intersection of what you love (passion), what you are good at (vocation), what the world needs (mission), and what you can be paid for (profession).







OpenAI. (2023). Illustration of Ikigai concept with intersecting circles and Japanese village backdrop [Digital image]. DALL·E Image Generator.


3. Contemplate how your academic pursuits can address societal or community challenges.

  • Neo-Confucianism Encyclopedia Britannica – Neo-Confucianism
  • This philosophy emphasizes the importance of education and knowledge for the betterment of society. The well-being of the community and society is paramount in Neo-Confucian thought.







OpenAI. (2023). Artistic rendering of a Neo-Confucian scholar reading ancient texts [Digital image]

4. Approach the unfamiliar academic landscape with a curious mindset and a readiness to learn.

  • Shoshin (Beginner’s Mind) Tricycle – The Beginner’s Mind
  • Translated as “beginner’s mind,” shoshin refers to having an open and eager attitude when starting something new or studying a subject.






OpenAI. (2023).
Watercolor painting of a student practicing shoshin by observing cherry blossoms [Digital image].

5.  Abandon ego, remain resilient amid obstacles, and grow through introspection (Deci & Ryan, 2008)

  • Mushin (No-Mind) Karate by Jesse – Mushin: The Zen of No Mind
  • Often translated as “no-mind,” mushin is a state where the mind is clear of thoughts and is fully present in the moment, allowing one to act without being hindered by ego or emotional attachment.

OpenAI. (2023). Ink drawing of a martial artist demonstrating the concept of mushin [Digital image]. DALL·E Image Generator.

By weaving in elements from Zen Buddhism, ikigai, neo-Confucianism, and other Japanese philosophies, students can amplify their personal growth and transition experiences. Using the wisdom from these philosophies empowers students to remain anchored, resolute, and socially aware on their academic voyage as they navigate this significant life transition.



  • García, H., & Miralles, F. (2018). Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life. Penguin Books.
  • Huang, C. (1997). Neo-Confucianism: New Ideas on Old Thought. Asian Philosophy, 7(1), 17-31.
  • Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. Hyperion.
  • Kift, S. (2009). Articulating a transition pedagogy to scaffold and to enhance the first year student learning experience in Australian higher education. Higher Education Research & Development, 28(3), 319-330.
  • Suzuki, D. T. (1959). Zen and Japanese Culture. Princeton University Press.
  • Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition. University of Chicago Press.

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