Tertiary can be tricky for newly minted students

No student is ever truly ready for the immense changes that come with tertiary education life. It is, however, vital that they remain open to new people and experiences. Picture: Phando Jikelo/Independent Newspapers

No student is ever truly ready for the immense changes that come with tertiary education life. It is, however, vital that they remain open to new people and experiences. Picture: Phando Jikelo/Independent Newspapers

Published Feb 18, 2024


By Tswelopele Makoe

Typically, as the month of February proceeds, tertiary institutions across our nation are well under way with the commencement of the 2024 academic year.

This year has started on a high note following the proliferation of the National Senior Certificate results for 2023 to an 82.9% pass rate. And, this month is also the ingression of tertiary institution students across the nation.

What a time! It is a time of great angst and trepidation, anxiety and excitement alike.

The transition from high school to college or university has the potential to be extremely overwhelming and daunting.

This is compounded by the independence that is awarded to newly arriving students, a first-time experience in their lives. For new students, it is nearly impossible not to feel a roller coaster of emotions.

Preparing for this new chapter of life as a student is a highly exhilarating time that requires proper preparation.

Organisation and self-discipline are integral to one’s success in tertiary institutions. From libraries, to writing centres and career services – tertiary institutions are filled with resources that ensure that students are academically supported.

Students should take advantage of the array of knowledge and extra skills that are provided in these spaces. It is a piece of advice worth heeding.

In addition to this new and tricky form of living, it is vital that students prioritise attendance of lectures and assignment deadlines.

I am reminded of Stephen Hawking who once famously said: “Showing up is half the battle.” Being consistent in one’s approach to course work is vital to success in tertiary education.

It is also pertinent that students are forthcoming and open with lecturers, tutors, and academic advisers in order to receive the best guidance possible. To be too embarrassed to ask questions is a sign of a weakness. As they say, there is no such thing as a stupid question.

This is a tricky time as students are required to be completely independent. It is extremely important that they are arduous, not only in taking proper care of themselves, but also in getting to know their surroundings and taking diligent care of their health.

This is also a time for students to learn about their passions and interests. They should be open to exploring new clubs and societies.

It is also a time where self-reflection and your academic interests are especially highlighted. Therefore, students should chat to academic advisers about mapping out their courses or changing curricula completely.

In higher education institutions, plagiarism is an extreme offence that is punishable by suspension, expulsion and permanent damage to your academic record.

Countless students enter college or university with no knowledge whatsoever of plagiarism. It is vital that they are committed to the practices of proper referencing.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications have also been rife amongst scholarly work. In South Africa, many educational institutions are working to combat this, but policy development to address this has been strenuous.

Nonetheless, students are still flagged for using AI and submitting it as their own. This is detrimental not only to their marks, but also to their retention of the knowledge that they need to pass effectively.

Although we are in a technologically advanced world, it is important that students use technology to enhance their learning practices, rather than to neglect them altogether.

No student is ever truly ready for the immense changes that come with tertiary education, but it’s vital that they remain open to new people and new experiences.

There are countless members of our society that will never receive the opportunity to attend a tertiary institution, and it should be regarded with the value that it inherently holds.

Our nation remains deeply stratified and economically unequal. Education is pertinent to the empowerment and enhancement of people’s quality of life.

Once a qualification is obtained, it can never be taken away from you. Education is only increasing in cost, so those who are given the opportunity need to grab it with both hands.

Hordes of people go to college or university, and an alarming amount leave these institutions with nothing to show for it. For many, this is also their first time away from their homes and families. Feeling homesick is normal and valid. Keeping a healthy work-life balance is crucial to ensure that both your mental and physical health are protected.

Educating yourself is essential for the betterment of your life, family and society. As eloquently put by the founding father of democratic South Africa, former President Nelson Mandela: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

* Tswelopele Makoe is a gender Activist, published weekly in the Sunday Independent and IOL. She is also an Andrew W. Mellon scholar, pursuing an MA Ethics at UWC and affiliated with the Desmond Tutu Centre for Religion and Social Justice. The views expressed are her own.