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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 Dec 17, 2021

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Entering university will be a major culture shock for many matriculants – and with first-year dropout rates remaining a problem in South Africa, an education expert says better outcomes can be achieved if students make the right preparations ahead of time.

This will ensure they make a success of their first year, and lay the groundwork for a productive and fulfilling career after graduation.

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“First-year dropout rates have historically been – and remain – a problem in South Africa,” says Natasha Madhav, Senior Head of Programme at The Independent Institute of Education.

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 such as: the relative loss of adult supervision and institutional structure of schools and 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 and first years who are already enrolled at a university can take the following steps to firm up their further 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) at the right institution, Madhav says.

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.

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“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.”

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, concludes Madhav.

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