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Be yourself!’ Graduates give their top tips for navigating student life

by Media Xpose

Starting university or college can be a scary prospect for a first-time student. There are so many hurdles to navigate as you step out of the safety net of school and home – with a lot of “adulting” to be done! So, why not ask someone who’s been there?

The Good Work Foundation (GWF) education non-profit in Mpumalanga runs a Bridging Year Academy to help school-leavers navigate the tricky transition from school to tertiary education and/or the workplace.

We asked some of our Bridging Year Academy (BYA) graduates who recently enrolled in tertiary studies what advice they have for the 2023 cohort of first-year newbies, based on their personal experiences and what they have learnt during their time at the BYA.

Tips from GWF Bridging Year Academy alumni for first-time student

Axcept Mhlongo (second-year Bachelor of Information Science student, University of Pretoria; 2020 GWF BYA graduate)

Axcept Mhlongo
  • Manage your time to make sure you are up to date with all tasks
  • Always seek guidance. If you don’t understand something, ask your peers or your lecturers for help
  • Make friends. University is tough sometimes, so having friends who do the same course as you can help you feel less alone
  • Do your assignments on time because if you leave them to the last minute, you might become overwhelmed
  • Be yourself! Never do anything just to fit into a group, and always put your studies first
  • Take breaks. University can be overwhelming, so give yourself time to rest

Ntlangelani Florah Mashele (studied Electrical Engineering, Ehlanzeni TVET College, Nelspruit campus; 2020 GWF BYA graduate)

Ntlangelani Florah Mashele
  • Engage with others and ask questions. If you take an interest in people, people will take an interest in you
  • Manage your finances. The first rule is to buy food; never waste money on unnecessary things. Be money-wise
  • Give yourself time to adjust to college life. Record the lessons if you can

Themba Sibiya (studying towards a Diploma in Public Affairs at Tshwane University of Technology’s Mbombela campus; 2020 GWF BYA graduate)

Themba Sibiya
  • Build smart study habits, such as setting attainable goals
  • Concentrate – this includes focusing on good note-taking, completing assignments on time and reviewing your daily notes
  • Develop organisational skills – keep yourself organised so you’ll save valuable time and you’ll be able to do everything you want to do
  • Be committed to your studies – it will pay off in the end

Matimu Sihlangu (studied Financial Management at Central Johannesburg College, Braamfontein campus; 2020 GWF BYA graduate)

Matimu Sihlang
  • Choose your friends wisely
  • Never misuse money
  • Make sure that you allocate more time to studying than to having fun
  • Make sure you take in every lesson your lecturers impart to you
  • Never lose sight of your goals; just focus

Relief Gazide (studying Tourism Management through Unisa; 2021 GWF BYA graduate)

Relief Gazide
  • Make friends – friends are essential in times of need
  • Get involved in group work and activities, so you’re exposed to the opinions of others
  • Make time for yourself

Lucia Mavundla (final-year Financial Accounting student at Unigrad College; 2022 GWF BYA graduate)

Lucia Mavundla
  • Do your research on the courses that are in demand and consider one that will enable you to be your own boss
  • Get yourself a mentor, someone you can look up to and who will motivate you
  • Be self-motivated; know what you want in life and not what your peers want for you
  • Know who you are, where you come from and how you want to change your situation
  • Get proper funding or save as much money as you can so you don’t get stuck in the middle of your studies. Be open to taking odd jobs
  • If you feel you are not ready to study yet, take a gap year but not longer, because this prevents you from achieving your goals
  • Reduce stressors and eliminate friends with a negative mindset

The Programme Manager of GWF’s Bridging Year Academy, Kathy Knott, says this sound advice echoes much of what these go-getting young adults learnt during their time at the academy, such as prioritising mental wellness, time management, goal-setting, self-motivation and managing stress.

To support the sterling work being done by GWF to reimagine and reinvigorate rural education, visit www.goodworkfoundation.org/donate/ and be a catalyst for change.

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