Many of our recent blog posts have helped you with info about passing your exams, choosing your degree and applying to university. We hope they have been useful in getting you to the point where you’re ready to take the next step in your academic career.
Now that you’re at that point, we thought it would be helpful to give you some info about what to expect when you enter into your chosen institution and how to make the most of this formative time in your life. University offers so many amazing opportunities for you to learn and grow so we thought it would be useful to help guide you from high school to university and let you know what to expect and how to make the most of it.
From high school to university: advice on the transition
Whether you’re coming from a small, community school where everyone knows each other, or a bigger high school with lots of learners and teachers, the transition to university can be daunting. South Africa has 26 universities and many of them have well over 30,000 students. They are massive institutions with numerous faculties and dozens of departments and campuses that are much bigger than even the biggest high schools. And while you may be one of many thousands of students, universities offer an amazing environment for you to explore your field of interest and invest in your personal development. One of the biggest changes will be your level of independence. 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.
The important stuff
As already mentioned, independence is key. Make sure you know your application status with your chosen institution and put the important dates for registration and orientation in your calendar. Correspondence from the university should clearly indicate which dates you will be expected to register and what documents you need to bring with you. Read all correspondence clearly and familiarise yourself with your faculty handbook so you know which subjects you will be able to choose from. The more you know, the more informed your subject choice will be. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from course leaders and institution councillors, their job is to help you. If you’re going to university away from your home town or city, make your travel arrangements well in advance and ensure your application for residence has been confirmed. Know when to arrive at residence (i.e. res) and what is provided so you know the things you will need to purchase. For those of you who have secured a bursary, liaise with your sponsor to ensure they will pay your registration fee and find out when and how the pay allowances. Managing your finances is very important and you should be clear on your budget for various items such as textbooks and toiletries.
From an academic point of view, you will need to motivate yourself and attend all your lectures and tutorials. It’s a good idea to get to know your lecturers and form support structures with your peers. Manage your time properly, challenge yourself intellectually and do independent research in your chosen field outside of the classroom to stay one step ahead. Make sure you’re always learning!
The fun stuff
While there are a lot of administrative and academic tasks to focus on, university is also about meeting new people, exploring new things and investing in yourself. Orientation Week (aka O-Week) is a wonderful opportunity to take advantage of the social events planned by the university and make new friends. There are numerous events and activities so pick the ones you are excited about and don’t get caught up trying to attend every single thing. There are also loads of clubs and societies offering wonderful cultural, sporting and voluntary activities. A word of caution: choose your clubs and societies wisely as each will have a membership fee. Choose one or two that you know you will invest your time in and be an active member. There will also be the opportunity to develop your leadership skills through res committees and student councils but make sure these obligations don’t get in the way of your studies. Most importantly, remember to enjoy yourself!
You are about to embark on one of the most formative, life-changing and worthwhile journey’s of your life. Embrace this opportunity, relish in your independence and take charge of your future. Best of luck and enjoy the ride!