Change is part of life and growth, and integrating into a university environment from high school also helps shape your career.
Change is part of life and growth, and integrating into a university environment from high school also helps shape your career.

From high school to university: expectations and how to make the most of it

By MaryAnne Isaac Time of article published Feb 22, 2021

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Durban - Whether you hail from a small community-based high school where everyone knows each other or from a popular and large high school, the transition to university can at first be quite daunting, and everyone has to go through it.

Change is part of life and growth, and integrating into a university environment from high school also helps shape your career.

“Once at university, students should make the most of what’s on offer for first-year students. Join clubs, get a peer buddy who has already successfully navigated first-year at university, attend all lectures, attend life-skills workshops, familiarise yourself with the physical environment as well as virtual facilities, get to know the important places and people, make friends and don’t be afraid to ask for help,” says Angeline Stephens, psychologist and Manager at the College of Humanities, UKZN.


Although with the pandemic and lockdown regulations still in place, social activities and interactions will be done slightly more different. When speaking to peers or lecturers, do so with a mask and maintain social distancing at all times.

South Africa has more than 20 public universities and many private colleges that has numerous facilities and extra-curricular activities, which allows you to invest in your career development and explore social interests.

Stephens also suggests that you give yourself time and plan and don’t leave registration to the last minute. There are different registration dates applicable for different institutions and for different degree choices.

According to experts at Career Wise, universities want to see you succeed, and every student is important, but they do not offer the same support structures as your high school.

“It will be up to you to take charge of your university experience and motivate yourself to think and work independently. You should see this as an exciting opportunity to further your academic aspirations and invest in your career, while also learning and growing as an individual.”

Here are a few guidelines when integrating into a tertiary environment.

1. Check your application status within your chosen education institute and note down important dates for registration and first-day orientation. Google calendar is an easy and reliable tool for important reminders.

2. University correspondence will clearly indicate the dates you are expected to register on and what documents are needed for registration. Make sure that you have a registration flip file or an A4 envelop to store all needed documents.

3. Read through all university correspondence and familiarise yourself with the guidelines and faculty handbook, so you know which subjects you will be able to choose. The more you know, the more informed your subject choice will be.

4. If you’re studying away from your home town or city, make your travel arrangements well in advance and ensure your application for student residence has been confirmed.

5. If you have secured a bursary, liaise with your sponsor company or person to ensure payment is on time for registration and find out about the pay allowances.

6. From an academic point of view, you will need to motivate yourself and attend all your lectures and tutorials. Try not to miss important lectures as it can be difficult at first to play catch-up in a new social environment.

7. Get to know your lecturers and form support structures with your peers.

8. Effectively manage your time and challenge yourself intellectually. Apart from your lectures, do independent research in your chosen field to stay one step ahead.

9. Select a career that you will enjoy and that you will find stimulating. Match your career choices to your personality, interests and aptitude.

10. Read up on the local and national ‘gaps’ and challenges within the employment sector. How do these relate to your own interests?

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