Campus Countdown: First-Year Checklist To Hit The Ground Running At University


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As students from the Matric Class of 2023 get ready to start their higher education journey in the coming days, they (and their parents) will be feeling a mix of excitement and anxiety – and many will have questions about what to expect and how to cope with the new academic and social environment.


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The clock is ticking for the Matric Class of 2023 students who are set to start their higher education journey in the coming days. Starting university is exciting and challenging, but visions for this major next step in life and towards adulthood are often tempered by uncertainty.

New students will feel a mix of emotions, such as curiosity, enthusiasm, nervousness and anxiety. Students (and their parents) also have many questions about what to expect and how to cope with the new academic and social environment.

Dr Linda Meyer, Managing Director at IIE Rosebank College, a brand of The Independent Institute of Education, SA’s leading private higher education provider, says it is natural and appropriate to feel overwhelmed during this time, but says there are a few guidelines that can assist new students to ease the transition. These include:

MAKING THE MOST OF ORIENTATION OPPORTUNITIES

“Orientation is a great opportunity to get familiar with the campus, meet new people, and learn about the resources and services available to you. It is also a chance to have fun and make friends before classes start,” Dr Meyer says.

Try to attend as many orientation events as possible, and don't be afraid to ask questions or seek help if needed. Orientation is designed to help you transition smoothly and successfully to university life.

TAKING TIME TO UNDERSTAND YOUR UNI’S SYSTEMS LOGISTICS

University systems and logistics will differ significantly from what you were used to in high school. For example, you may have to register for courses online, use a student portal to access your grades and assignments or follow a different academic calendar.

You may also have to deal with financial matters, such as paying tuition fees, applying for scholarships, or managing your budget.

To avoid confusion and stress, ensure you understand how these systems and logistics work, and keep track of important dates and deadlines. You can also consult your academic advisor, student services, or other staff members about any issues or concerns.

“Additionally, get a good understanding of the physical campus environment. Make sure you know where the buildings and classes are located and additional services you may need to access.”

GETTING TO GRIPS WITH THE TECH ENVIRONMENT

Technology is an essential part of university education, notes Dr Meyer.

You will need to use various devices, software and platforms to complete your coursework, communicate with your lecturers and peers, and access online resources. You may also have to adapt to different learning modes, such as online, hybrid, or blended courses.

“To prepare for this, ensure you have the necessary tech equipment, and familiarise yourself with the tech tools and platforms your university uses, such as email, learning management systems, video conferencing, and online libraries. If you encounter any tech problems or need any tech support, find the support you need to iron out these issues as soon as possible.”

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS

University expectations are different from what you experienced in high school. You will have to deal with more academic rigour, more independence, more responsibility, and more diversity.

You will also need to carefully balance your academic, personal, and social life and cope with various challenges and pressures.

To meet these expectations, you need to develop skills and strategies, such as critical thinking, research, writing, time management, self-motivation, self-care, and stress management. You should also set realistic and achievable goals, seek feedback and guidance, and celebrate your achievements and progress.

“Don’t stress about academics too much in the first week or two. Everyone is still finding their feet. Just ensure you get to grips with your new environment and keep putting one foot in front of the other.”

DEVELOPING TIME MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES

Time management is one of the most important skills for university success.

“You will need to manage your time effectively and efficiently and prioritise your tasks and activities. You will also have to deal with multiple and competing demands, such as assignments, exams, extracurriculars, work, and social life,” says Dr Meyer.

To improve your time management, plan ahead, create a schedule, use a calendar or a planner, set reminders and alarms, and stick to your routine. Remember you are now accountable to yourself, and your success will depend on your ability to be disciplined and consistent.

JOINING CULTURAL CLUBS & SPORTS TEAMS

Joining clubs or sports teams is a great way to enrich your university experience. You can pursue your interests, hobbies, passions, or talents or discover new ones. You can also meet new people, make friends, network, and socialise.

Joining clubs or sports teams can also improve your physical, mental, and emotional well-being, and provide much-needed balance to your academic work.

Finally, it is important to know that help is available, and to seek support timeously, whether it be for academic or personal reasons.

“University can be challenging and stressful, and you may face various difficulties or problems along the way. Most good higher education institutions will have the necessary support services in place, to assist you with challenges you face,” says Dr Meyer.

“If you feel overwhelmed, confused, stuck, or unhappy, don’t hesitate to seek help timeously, whether it be academic or mental wellness support. Seeking help timeously is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength and courage.”

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