Dr Felicity Coughlan, Director of the Independent Institute of Education, which is responsible for the academic leadership and governance of education and training on 21 registered higher education campuses across South Africa, says that prospective students should enjoy their well-deserved period of rest. The long holiday period also provides the perfect opportunity to get your head in the right space, learn a new skill, or just catch up on some long-neglected admin, she says.
1. Learn to type with all ten fingers (also called touch-typing). While typing at school is no longer cool, from now on most of what you do will be on a keyboard. And the quicker you can type, the more you can get done (which is always a good thing in fast-paced work and study environments). Best news of all, today’s typing programmes feel less like learning and more like gaming. So head off to Rapid Typing or other sites where you’ll find free downloads.
2. Learn to drive or do your driver’s licence. Apart from the fact that many positions require you to have a driver’s licence, being able and allowed to drive has the potential to make life a lot more convenient.
3. Open a file to start collecting your certificates and reference letters. Being organised allows you to free up your energy to make a difference and impact where it really matters. It is also a trait valued by future employers.
4. Look for an opportunity to make a bit of money. Sell your time, work with a party organiser, offer to wrap gifts or do Christmas shopping, or do some house-, pet- or baby-sitting during the day.
5. If you are creative or quite handy, repair your clothing or update them with a contemporary twist. Not only will this ensure you have some on-trend outfits for the New Year, but it’ll also give you some confidence in your own abilities and allow you to save your money for better use elsewhere.
6. Offer to help at your old school in January. Help register new students, sort out books, do whatever is required to help ensure a smooth start for the school year. You may meet some interesting new people (it’s called networking!), and even maybe net a good reference an entry where the empty hole used to be on your CV – there where it says “Experience”.
7. Help out at places where volunteers have gone on leave. See last point about experience.
8. Read a book and start reading newspapers. Being informed and well-read will never hurt your chances.
9. Spend quality time with family and friends. Everything changes when you start studying, but the relationships that will hold you up when things are tough are the ones you should nurture now.
10. If you have a car, volunteer to be the designated driver. It is cheaper to go out and have a reason not to be drinking, and it is also safer for you and your friends. Plus it’s great to be able to enter the next phase of your life without alcohol-induced regrets.
11. Sort through your school books and give some away. But keep those you may need next year.
12. Clean out your cupboards and give stuff away. Getting rid of the old (for a good cause) frees up space for wonderful new things to enter your life.
13. Create a photo album or scrap book of your matric year. If you don’t do it now, you never will.
14. Update the contacts on your phone and save them on to a computer. If you want to keep touch with friends that you will not see so often anymore, don’t trust their details to the phone that may get stolen.
15. Surprise everyone and write a thank you note to the teachers who got you this far and the family that supported you. It is said that people who actively engage in gratitude are generally happier.
16. Study the maps of the campus you are going to and of the town if you are moving to study. Not only is it exciting, but it’ll also help you feel less lost and more in control once you arrive!
17. See if you can find introductory lectures on subjects you will study. Check out the Kahn Academy or Ted Talks online. Always do more than the minimum that is expected of you!
18. Do a free on line course. Because it’s good for you… and it’s free! There are literally thousands of courses out there at the moment, and while quality varies, even doing a poor course provides good experience in studying online.
19. Browse bookshops. Good, old-fashioned browsing in a bookshop is something most of us rarely do, and is worth doing for just that reason.
20. Start an exercise programme that is about a lifestyle and not a school sport. A healthy body houses a healthy mind. And healthy minds are not only good for their owners, but also for our country. Maintaining or improving the level of activity you undertook while at school is far harder beyond school and will be more readily done if you engage in an activity you enjoy and can do either alone, or with others, like running, cycling or gym. Keep up a team sport if you can, but don’t count on it.
21. Learn to play a musical instrument. You can download (free) lessons for virtually any instrument. It stretches your boundaries and gives you a (potentially impressive) new skill.