Student life will rock your cotton socks – if you have the stamina and determination to persevere and the courage to realise your dreams.

As a student registered at the University of Pretoria, you deserve a pat on the back even before you attend your first lecture. If you have made it past your first year, you probably deserve a stiff drink and a hug, because surviving first year is no mean feat, and any seasoned Tukkie will agree that the years spent at UP will probably be some of the most challenging and hardcore years of your life.

CHANÈ MACKAY

Student life will rock your cotton socks – if you have the stamina and determination to persevere and the courage to realise your dreams.

As a student registered at the University of Pretoria, you deserve a pat on the back even before you attend your first lecture. If you have made it past your first year, you probably deserve a stiff drink and a hug, because surviving first year is no mean feat, and any seasoned Tukkie will agree that the years spent at UP will probably be some of the most challenging and hardcore years of your life.

Only 7% of all South Africans enjoy the privilege of a tertiary education. According to the Student Pathways study, conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council, 40% of the students enrolled in South African universities drop out within their first year of study and only 15% of the remaining students actually manage to graduate within the allotted time. This means that in a population of about 49 million people, roughly 147 0000 people enrol at the nation’s universities every year and less than a third of these fortunate few eventually graduate.

According to the experts, the two main reasons for this drastic dropout rate are financial constraints and lack of information.

In this whirlwind time of year, where registration fees, deposits, accommodation and transport have to be paid for, and the ridiculous prices of textbooks makes us cringe in disgust, it is easy to see why many students simply cannot afford to sustain their higher education.

Even if the finances are available for you to continue your studies, lack of information is often a dire cause of distress for many students. Deciding on a course of study, and thus the possible course of your future, is not easy. This process is further complicated by the inexperience of some students, such as first years, in finding and implementing the information that is relevant to their academic success. From the location of auditoriums, the actual meaning of the sometimes bizarre acronyms used to identify modules and the point of the Harvard referencing technique, to the vocabulary used in academic articles or even the contents of a chicken surprise vetkoek from Vetkoek Maleis, finding and applying the information relevant to you can often make the difference between passing or failing and success or a mental breakdown.

First and second year students especially, should know that the world will notgrind to a screeching halt if you admit that you might not have chosen the right course of study halfway through the year.

Many things – like your parents and teachers, your desire for material comfort or simply the fact that you were unaware of your options – influence what you choose to study.

Once settled into life on campus and exposed to the eclectic mix of faculties, student stereotypes and different kinds of qualifications, many students realise that they would much rather study something else.

A BCom student could easily walk into a history of art lesson by mistake, and simply stay for the remainder of their now BA degree. Or a drama student could just as easily realise that they would be far more satisfied working as a journalist or as a prosecutor than as an actor.

The key thing is to expose yourself to as much as possible during your time at university, as this is the most occupationally diverse and educationally stimulating institution you may ever have access to. Go to the lunchtime concerts, join a campus society, attend random lectures or listen to speakers, make friends from as many faculties as possible – absorb as much of the diversity as you can because you will be a more interesting and knowledgeable person for it. If you do decide to take the plunge and actually fill out the little form that steers your education in a whole new direction, make sure that you research the new course of study thoroughly. Make sure that you can afford it, find out if there are selection procedures and how best to complete them. Note the closing dates for submissions or applications and remember that you can only change your course and drop the modules you have already registered for until a certain time each semester. Confirm whether the credits you have already gained can be transferred or whether you have to start again from scratch.

Also consider whether you should simply stick it out and see what next year brings in your original course.

UP offers various support networks, specially constructed to provide advice, guidance and counselling for all registered students – make use of them. Ultimately, youshould take charge of your education, as the eventual richness of your success or failure, at university and in life, rests primarily within your own capable hands.

Photo: Michelle Prins

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