“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” — Malcolm X. With this in mind, the next few weeks will see last year’s pupils become tertiary students. 2020 Matrics will be heading to university; for some, the thought of staying away from home is exciting. However, the feeling may be different for others.

Starting your university career is an exciting adventure, a learning curve, and an essential part of your life. While this change might come as an exciting one, it is also important to remember that it will come with having to make some lifestyle changes that will not be as easy as they appear. From learning to adapt to a new environment where you’ll need to make new friends, meet academic expectations, and become independent.

Natasha Madhav, Senior Head of Programme: Faculty of ICT at The Independent Institute of Education (The IIE), said: “You have already demonstrated that you can get this far and deal with everything Covid and the lockdowns have thrown at you. You are already set up for success with your newly developed resilience and grit. Use these new skills to maintain your momentum. Don’t drop your resolve now, but rather give it your all.”

We have compiled a few practical tips, to help you keep your mental health in check and navigate through this important journey in the first few months of being a “newbie”:

1. Make your lectures your top priority.

You are probably thinking of the exciting things that tertiary life has to offer. It is important to enjoy the experience but first and foremost, remember that everything revolves around academia. The most successful students put their lectures first. Granted “you’re a big kid now”, and the responsibility is on you to take ownership of your studies. Your results will ultimately reflect the hard work you have put in.

2. Take an active approach in your lectures.

Do not be afraid to speak up and ask questions. Lecturers are there to guide you and facilitate your learning experience. If the lecturer is going too fast or not clear enough, raise your hand and ask for clarification. Keep in mind that your questions may benefit the whole class.

3. Never hand in your assignments late.

Diligence is an important skill set in higher education. Do not allow the “better late than never” syndrome get to you. Draft your own study timetable and ensure that you know when assignments need to be submitted. This way you are better prepared and may even be able to submit earlier than the due date.

4. Meet with the Student Admin team at least twice every semester.

Feel comfortable to meet with the Student Admin staff on your campus, seeking guidance on which modules to enroll in, extra tutorials that may be available and be on top of your course map. Make sure you raise your concerns regarding your studies with the Student Admin team as early as possible.

5. Actively participate in at least one organised extra-curricular activity.

Although the main priority of varsity is your studies, it is essential to take good care of your mental, emotional and physical health by participating in sports activities or social clubs. Take advantage of the extra-curricular activities offered to make new friends.

The bottom line is, you’ve got this! The fact that you are pursuing higher education in the first place means that you want to shape your future.