© 2015 Taylor & Francis. Developmental transitions are experienced throughout the life course and necessitate adapting to consequential and unpredictable changes that can undermine health. Our six-month study (n = 239) explored whether selective secondary control striving (motivation-focused thinking) protects against the elevated levels of stress and depressive symptoms increasingly common to young adults navigating the challenging school-to-university transition. Path analyses supplemented with tests of moderated mediation revealed that, for young adults who face challenging obstacles to goal attainment, selective secondary control indirectly reduced long-term stress-related physical and depressive symptoms through selective primary control and previously unexamined measures of discrete emotions. Results advance the existing literature by demonstrating that (a) selective secondary control has health benefits for vulnerable young adults and (b) these benefits are largely a consequence of the process variables proposed in Heckhausen et al.’s (2010) theory.