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How to set the scene for first-year university success

Take steps to ensure you make a success of your first year

Take steps to ensure you make a success of your first year

Published Jan 4, 2022

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Entering university for the first time will be a culture shock for many matriculants.

An education expert says first-year dropout rates have historically been – and remain – a problem in South Africa. Natasha Madhav, senior head of programme at the Independent Institute of Education, says better outcomes can be achieved if students make the right preparations ahead of time, such as taking steps that will not only ensure they make a success of their first year, but allow them to lay the groundwork for a productive and fulfilling career after graduation.

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She says the reasons why students with seemingly good prospects struggle during their first year are numerous, and many have to deal with a combination of factors which include the relative loss of adult supervision and institutional structure of schools, the need to work more autonomously, the increased academic demand at university, the culture shock of campus life, the temptations of the social scene, personal circumstances and a lack of support.

Madhav says in the coming weeks, prospective students can take the following three steps to firm up their study foundations:

1) U-turn or full steam ahead. Probably one of the most important steps to take is to ensure you are confident that you have enrolled for the right qualification (for you) and at the right institution.

2) Logistics. Make sure you get all your logistical ducks in a row before heading to tertiary education.

3) Mental preparedness. Campus life is a whole different kettle of fish compared to school life, and knowing what’s coming, and how you are going to approach this new phase is crucial.

For many, not all of the above will realistically be in place on day one, but by understanding where the gaps are, and what you have to work with, you can at least start out with a plan.

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“Working towards your qualification can be one of the most exciting and fulfilling times of a person’s life if it is underpinned by a clear vision, discipline, and determination.

“As with all things, first-year students must start as they wish to finish. Don’t leave it up to fate – take control of your life and your future from the outset, so that you can step into your studies with confidence next year,” concludes Madhav.

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