From high school to tertiary education: practical tips to get you through

Campus life can be challenging for many first year students. Pic: Supplied

Campus life can be challenging for many first year students. Pic: Supplied

Published Mar 28, 2023


Students often face high expectations at universities, which are very different from school environments.

Atelisha Harilal, head of student recruitment and marketing at STADIO, shares some practical advice and pointers that can help ease the transition and manage the adjustment.

Students have more flexibility in their schedules and it is up to them to submit assignments, attend classes, and study for exams. In addition to embracing this freedom, many students do not realise that to succeed in their studies, they must also practise time management and self-management.

Tips for a successful first year

“There’s very little push for you to attend, and students seem to think it’s fine not to attend because no one’s checking up on them. It’s far more fun to visit the campus cafeteria, but attendance at lectures and tutorials is what you’re actually paying for. Do not wait for the exam date or to be given an assignment before you start preparing for those assessments. It is easier to prepare a little bit at a time and to also set aside revision times, as opposed to trying to ‘cram’ everything all at once,” advises Harilal.

What to do if you’re struggling

Harilal says while finances are the leading reason for university drop-outs in South Africa, another big cause of first-year students falling away is that they are unable to cope with the transition of having to take full responsibility for their own studies, and the increase in volume of work required. However, every tertiary institution has support structures in place. “Usually, there will be support offered in terms of both academics and student life,” she says. “ I encourage students and their parents to investigate these services and make use of them.”

Working while studying

Many students work part-time jobs to help make ends meet, but Harilal cautions that it’s important not to get carried away with the work. Maintaining that work/academic balance is key. Finally, make sure you’re getting a job in an industry that is not placing you in a very high-risk situation. You’re young, which means you are a bit vulnerable. It’s important to ensure you are not exploited.”

Keep your eyes on the prize

Harilal advises students and their parents to remember that acceptance into a tertiary institution is only the first step in obtaining a qualification. Remain focused on the reason why you’ve engaged into tertiary. It’s a great time to meet people, grow through socialisation and learning from your peers. But don’t allow that to distract you from the core purpose of your tertiary education journey, which is getting that qualification that will empower you to conquer the world of work.