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With the release of university results, many first years have to face up to the fact that their transition from school to higher education was less successful than planned, and that they need to re-evaluate their current path. While it might seem that there are no options but to throw in the towel, those who failed or under-performed in their first year actually have a number of ways to still realise their dream career, an education expert says.
“It is not a pleasant position to be in if you just finished your first year of study and you didn’t pass as well as you had hoped to, or as well as your family and friends have expected you to. Now is the time though to be courageous and honest with yourself and others by re-assessing the situation, and making the changes required to get back on track,” says Natasha Madhav, Senior Head of Programme: Faculty of ICT at The Independent Institute of Education, SA’s largest private higher education provider.
“It is very important for both students and parents to realise that not getting it right the first time doesn’t make one a failure. Instead, the situation should be regarded as a temporary – if inconvenient and costly – hurdle, and a wake-up call for thoughtful reflection.”
Madhav says the transition from school to higher education is a very challenging one on many fronts, but that those who didn’t rise to the occasion on the first try have a number of steps they can take to start their new year with new direction and determination.
She advises students to:
1) MAKE SURE OF YOUR FACTS
It is important that you work out the facts of your situation – are you eligible for a supplementary assessment or a re-mark on any of the subjects? How will this impact on you graduating? What is the best way to re-organise your curriculum to still graduate as soon as possible? If you really need to change course can you take any credits with you? What are the cost implications of all of this information and how can you fund it?
“While these facts feel overwhelming to gather and organise, the reality is that you will make better decisions if you are more certain about the absolute reality of what you need to manage,” says Madhav.
2) MEET WITH A STUDENT OR CAREER COUNSELLOR
“The transition from school to college or university can cause many students to feel isolated and overwhelmed during their first year,” she notes.
“For many students, failure in the first year is not necessarily a reflection of their academic ability, but rather an indication of an underlying issue. It is perfectly normal to need time to adjust to the social, emotional, and mental hurdles of university or college life. Even if you feel emotionally sound, talking with a counsellor about ways to achieve academic success can help keep you on track.”
Madhav says that student and career counsellors will take students through different options to ensure that they have chosen the right qualification and, if not, to identify fields better suited to the student’s personality and career aspirations.
It may, for instance, be a good idea to first pursue a Higher Certificate, before pursuing degree studies. It may also be that there is a more suited qualification within the chosen field.
“Knowing what your options are – and making sure you are on the right track before continuing – is an important part of ensuring future success,” says Madhav.
3) SPEAK TO THE LECTURERS OF THE COURSES YOU FOUND MOST CHALLENGING
“Identifying those subjects that were most challenging, and potentially had a decisive impact on your results, is an important step,” says Madhav.
She says that seeking advice from lecturers can help students to overcome past challenges and identify new approaches to areas they found particularly discouraging.
“Asking your lecturers for additional resources that you can engage with over the holidays can also help better you prepare for success next year,” she says.
4) SET UP A NEW STUDY PLAN
“To ensure success in the new year, devise a plan to help you stay on track and succeed the second time around. Better note-taking in class and using your smartphone to record your lectures can make it easier to study for exams in future.
“Social collaboration can also improve learning,” says Madhav.
She suggests creating a blog or Facebook group where students can invite other students to share notes and engage, to keep motivated and learn from peers.
5) TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE RESOURCES AVAILABLE TO YOU
Madhav says that any good public university or private institution is filled with resources to ensure student success, including online.
“Identify online lectures, video labs and tutorials that are relevant to the course you are studying. Also enquire about individual tutoring or assistance available on campus. One-on- one learning, whether in person or online, is a great way to go over tougher subject matter that might not get addressed during class time,” she says.
6) IDENTIFY A MENTOR
Making a connection with a mentor that you respect can help you feel less isolated, optimise your educational experience and provide you with ongoing guidance and support.
“A good mentoring relationship is often characterised by mutual respect, trust, understanding, and empathy. A good mentor will also be able to share life experiences as well as technical expertise. In the end, they create an atmosphere in which the student’s talent is nurtured and fostered. Seeking help from an expert will make your studies seem less scary and more attainable,” says Madhav.
7) COMMIT TO YOUR MENTAL AND PHYSICAL WELLBEING
“Don’t allow what should be a temporary setback to impact on your health,” says Madhav.
“While you may feel very down at this stage, commit to keeping fit and eating healthy foods. Not only will this positively influence your ability to handle this challenging time, but it will also ensure your brain is in tip-top shape when you resume your studies.”
The Independent Institute of Education (The IIE) is a division of the JSE-listed ADvTECH Group, Africa’s largest private education provider.