Citizen Reporter
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5 minute read
6 Jan 2022
5:32 pm

How to set the scene for university success after matric

Citizen Reporter

Matrics often scramble to apply for studies without having a clear idea of what they want to do with their lives.

Matriculants heading for their first year at university in 2022 are now in the golden period ahead of the first semester at university.

Here are some things to consider to ensure your first year of varsity is a success and an experience that will allow you to lay the groundwork for a productive and fulfilling college life.

Entering tertiary education is a major culture shock for fresh-off-the-boat high schoolers.

Culture shock and freedom of campus life

first-year university
College Party: Culture shock and freedom of campus life. Picture: iStock

The biggest shock to the system can be the freedom.

“First-year dropout rates have historically been – and remain – a problem in South Africa,” says the Independent Institute of Education‘s senior head of programme Natasha Madhav.


Find your 2021 matric results here.


Madhav says one of the main reasons why students with seemingly good prospects struggle during their first year is the relative loss of adult supervision.

College education demands responsibility and learning to work more autonomously.

“Students can be overwhelmed by the increased academic demands, the culture shock of campus life, social scene temptations, personal circumstances and a lack of support,” says Madhav.

Realising your chose the wrong career path

first-year university
Realising you chose the wrong career path. Picture: iStock.

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Many students don’t thoroughly research their choices before settling on a qualification and institution.

It’s not too long into the degree that they realise they are probably on the wrong academic path.

Madhav emphasises the importance of getting your head in a good space before even setting foot on campus.

She says prospective students and first years who are already enrolled at a university can take the following steps to firm up their study foundations.

“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,” says Madhav.

How to make sure you are on the right career path

first-year university
How to make sure you are on the right career path, choosing the right job. Picture: iStock.

“Unfortunately, matrics often scramble to apply for studies without having a clear idea of what they want to do, or what they are going to do once they have completed a qualification.”

When considering whether you have made a good decision about your studies, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Have I chosen a qualification that matches my interests and my vision for my future?
  2. Has my institution been clear about the curriculum and its relevance to what is required in the industry in real life?
  3. Am I clear about how my qualification will help me enter a specific field or career, or am I still vague about my prospects post-graduation?
  4. Does my institution have a demonstrable track record in helping graduates bridge the gap between the world of study and the world of work?

“Getting a satisfying answer to the above questions will set your mind at ease that you are on the right track, and remove doubts about the massive investment of time and money you will make in the coming years,” says Madhav.

If, however, uncertainty remains, it is not too late to take action.

“Making the change now, while there is still time and your potential losses are limited, is crucial,” she adds.

“Don’t think what’s done is done and there is no changing direction if you have doubts about your prior decisions. If you already have doubts, or can’t answer the above questions satisfactorily, it is unlikely that things will sort themselves out while you are thrown in the deep end next year.”

ALSO READ: GUIDE: What is the status of SA’s universities for the 2021 academic year?

Preparing for campus life

Make sure you get all your logistical ducks in a row before heading to tertiary education, Madhav advises.

Stay on top of your institution’s communication so that you know when, where and how everything is expected to happen next year.

Sort out living arrangements if you are going to be away from home, put together a budget, and as far as possible, ensure that you have the textbooks, technology and stationery you require.

“It’s okay if you don’t have everything ready by day one, but by understanding where the gaps are, and what you have to work with, you can at least start out with a plan,” says Madhav.

Build mental tenacity

Build mental tenacity
Build mental tenacity. Power of your mind. Picture: iStock.

Campus life is a different kettle of fish when compared to school life. Knowing what’s coming, and how you are going to approach this new phase, is crucial.

“Think about what you want from your time in higher education, the outcomes you wish for yourself, and the challenges that might stop you from reaching your dream.

How will you handle the party life? How serious are you about attending all lectures – even the early morning ones – and submitting assignments timeously,” says Madhav.

Set weekly and monthly academic goals. Build a support system so you know where to go for assistance – emotionally or academically – at your institution should you require it.

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.

“As with all things, first-year students must start with the goal of finishing. 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.”

(Compiled by Narissa Subramoney)