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Home After School Transitioning from high school to university – Tips for First Year Students

Transitioning from high school to university – Tips for First Year Students

by Staff Reporter

Many students find the transition from high school to University quite challenging. But since you are here and doing some preparation we are sure you are not going to be one of those students. We are going to break down what you need to know and do in order to make the transition to university as easy as possible. 

If you are preparing for university, in the middle of orientation, or busy with classes and trying to figure everything out, we are here to help you with your transition during your first year at University.

Table of Contents

Preparing for University

If you are preparing to head off to university you are going to need to get a few things in order before your first day on campus. Here are some of the things you will need to organise and prepare for.

Preparing for your student finances

If you haven’t heard the phrase “student budget” yet, get ready to hear and use that phrase a lot. As a student it is likely that you will have a minimal budget monthly to use on the various needs that students have – that includes things like accomodation, transport, food, textbooks, and social events depending on where you stay and how you get to campus. The best way to manage that money is to set up a budget. 

How to budget as a student

To set up a budget all you need to do is set up a spreadsheet with the amount you have monthly, and list the expenses you have monthly. Divide your expenses into essential (rent, textbooks, food) and non-essential (social events, eating out etc) and you can then split your incoming money across your expenses, starting with the essential ones, to see how much money you have for each expense. This may change through the year – at the beginning of the year, you may find you will need more budget for textbooks, and later you may find that you need more income for various events. Readjust your budget every month according to that. 

Here is an example of a monthly student budget: 

Budget:Expenditure Amount P/M
Social events250
Amount left:1007900

Here is another free budget template.

The key with a budget is to make sure that your costs are never more than the amount of money you have. As you can see in the above budget there is R100 leftover after money has been budgeted for everything else. 

The beauty of having that leftover money is that you can either spend it on whatever you want or save it. That is why you should have a splurge section or a saving section. Personally, I like to leave some leeway for costs that might come up that I can’t plan for, such as if you lose your student card and need to replace it. 

So, if you have budgeted for everything and you have a R100 leftover, I would advise saving R50 and leaving R50 as leeway in case of extra costs. Starting to save as early as possible will help you enjoy your studies more and prepare you for life after varsity. 

Two notes on the budget. Firstly, textbooks are typically far more expensive than R500 for all of them, so you will need to budget more than that. Secondly, students have a variety of monthly budgets and expenses, in South Africa some students will have a lot less than R8000 and some will have a lot more monthly. The principle of budgeting should be practiced either way as you enter university. 

If you do need help with funding, you can get some help from Fundi. We provide a variety of student loan options that cover student accommodation, textbooks, tuition, and more.

Student planner

Prepare to take yourself to classes & manage your schedule

Similar to budgeting when you are transitioning from school to university, you are going to need to be prepared to manage yourself.

You will probably no longer have your mom, dad or guardian waking you up in the morning to prepare you for school. You are going to have to wake yourself up, at an early enough time, to get ready for classes.

Classes at university usually start at different times every day, so that will mean staying on top of your schedule to know when you need to get up and get ready every day.

Additionally, most classes don’t have a register, which means it can be easy to skip class if you feel like doing so. This can become a common practice with students. However, it is a bad idea. Class attendance has been seen to be directly correlated with student performance. You are more likely to do well and not fail if you attend classes.

A huge benefit of having the choice to attend classes is that on days when you are sick you can miss class without having to get a dreaded sick note. So, take advantage of that. Just don’t abuse that power, and try to get to every class you can.

Preparing for university life

When you are getting ready to go to University, it is important to get your mind right. You are going to face a variety of new challenges, and experiences. Some will be good and some will be bad, but having the right mindset throughout that will help you. 

If you want to get through your first year of university successfully, here are a few things you need to prepare your mind for: 

  • Your marks will probably drop – University is far more academically challenging than school, and this happens to most students. Once you discover the amount of work university requires and get used to the new learning environment you can get these marks back up. 
  • It will be lonely at first – Going to a new environment is always somewhat scary, and making new friends takes time. Loneliness at the beginning of varsity is to be expected.
  • You need to keep yourself accountable – At university it is up to you to make sure that you pass, and that you have as good an experience as possible. A big part of that is being accountable with yourself. 
  • You are going to have to develop your own moral code – Once you leave school you are able to do a lot more, and will be presented with different opportunities. You will need to decide for yourself what you believe to be right or wrong once at varsity. No one will be there to make those decisions for you. 

Be prepared to learn a lot about yourself – A huge benefit of university is that it teaches you a lot about yourself. Take advantage of that, and use university to figure out what you want out of life and who you want to be.

Adjusting to life on campus

Once you have prepared your mind and body for University, the next step is to actually adjust to life on campus. It is one thing, preparing for university and it is another thing actually being there. If you are living at home, in res, digs or another living situation here are some tips to best adjust to life on campus. 

Get to know the University

If you want to navigate your university campus well, you’re going to need to get to know the campus itself. Most universities will try to have campus tours during orientation week, but you should take some time to walk around campus and find out as much as you can about it during your first few weeks of university.

Find out where the admin building is, figure out where you can get the best coffee, and discover the best study spot in the library. This knowledge will help you during the rest of your degree. These will also become places you can show off to your friends and help them enjoy their studies even more.

There will probably be awkward one hour breaks between many of your classes, during those moments take the time to walk around university and discover the key aspects of your campus.

A lot of these spots will also be shown to you during orientation, so take note when you are being guided around campus too.

Student in her dorm room

Adjusting to your new living situation

You might be living at home, in res or digs when you start studying. Whatever your living situation is, it is going to be different to when you were at school. If you are living away from home, it is important to set up your room as homely as possible. 

You can make your room feel homely by adding photos from home, or something that reminds you of your family. You can also make your room more homely by figuring out what you really like and designing your room around that. 

At University you will have the freedom to design your room as you like it. The more comfortable and homely your room is, the more restful it will be. 

Of course if you are sharing a dorm room, don’t abuse your roommate’s space. When you are making your room homely, giving your roommate respect will help improve the room overall for you and them. Respecting your roommate is key and should help you make a friend at University.

How to find friends at University

Finding friends at Varsity can be incredibly tough, but once you do they will be a great help in the transition from School to University. They will become peers who are going through the same thing as you. Fortunately, at university people are often friendly and ready to make friends. However, to help you here are a few ways you can make friends at university: 

  • Talk to your neighbours – If you’re in university residence or private residence talking to your neighbours will help you develop friends who live right next door.
  • Go to class – Interestingly, class is a great way to make friends at university. During the first few weeks, everyone is equally confused, so at class that becomes an easy conversation topic. 
  • Study on campus – When you’re working on campus you may meet people studying the same subjects as you or it may just provide an environment where conversation can happen easily.
  • Take advantage of coffee & lunch breaks – At University friendships are built over coffee breaks. If you meet people don’t be afraid of inviting them to join you for a coffee or lunch break, it could result in a meaningful friendship. 
  • Join a student society/club – Clubs and societies at university are a great way to meet people with similar interests, which helps making friendships much easier.
  • Arrange a study group – You’re going to have a lot of studying to do, so why not do that with people and make friends. A study group will help you develop some cool friendships, get into interesting debates, and get helpful tips for your work.

Take advantage of student resources

You should discover this pretty quickly when you get to university, most varsities in South Africa have a vast array of resources for students to succeed. These resources are often specifically there to help you with the transition from school to university. Most universities in South Africa will have the following resources: 

  • A university library – The library will help you study, get access to computers for work, meet people, and more. It truly is a wonderful place. 
  • Student discounts – A student card is a great enabler for saving, look for student discounts around campus. 
  • Academic resources – Many of these will be accessible online or in the library. They will be a necessity for you to pass your degree.
  • Career days – Often universities will host different companies on campus to chat to students about different career opportunities. This can help you secure a job straight after you graduate. 
  • Talks and Seminars – Different faculties often host talks and seminars from various people, or organisations. These are a great way to learn, meet new people and to network. 
  • Mental Health Services – Most universities have a medical centre where you can get help for a variety of health issues, importantly this includes mental health services. If you are struggling with mental health issues, reach out and talk to someone from the health centre at your university. 
A student coping with stress

Develop healthy coping strategies for student stress

You are going to be faced with a lot of new stresses when you enter university. You will need to develop various coping methods to help you handle the new stressors. Many students tend to turn to partying, alcohol and/or drugs as a coping mechanism for stress. While a certain degree of partying is completely fine and expected at university, using it as a coping strategy or overindulging in it will have a negative impact on your university experience. 

You will need to learn what your best coping mechanisms are or learn new ones. Some good coping mechanisms are to exercise, spend time with friends, phone your family, read a book, meditate or just go for a walk around campus.   

There are a variety of other healthy ways you can use to cope with student stress. If you know of other ways to do so, use those methods. Knowing what helps you cope with stress will help you figure out how to survive the transition from high school to university.

Get help with Student Funding for the transition

One of the main reasons that students struggle with the transition from high school to university is a struggle with finances. If you want to avoid that struggle, Fundi can help you. 

Fundi provides funding for every student need from tuition fees, to laptops, textbooks, accommodation and more. Let us know how we can help you.

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