How to prepare yourself for college

How to prepare yourself for university

The transition from school to college is never an easy one. Here is how you can prepare for it.

University students
University classroom/ iStock

According to, more than 40% of South African students drop out in their first year of study. 

This is because of many factors, says Stacey Cohen, an educational psychologist. 

“There are many factors that influence these statistics. First, the jump from school to university is massive. Not only is your course work more extensive, but you are now completely responsible for attending lectures, keeping up with the class, taking notes, and making sure you understand the content of the subject,” says Stacey. 

“For many students, this new found freedom can result in deciding to skip lectures or tutorials or not keeping up with the recommended readings,” she adds.  

This is not the only problem contributing to students failing or dropping out of tertiary institutions. Stacey says another reason is that students fail to prioritise their studies over their social life. 

“There is a big social aspect where many social parties are organised for first year students. Many students get consumed by this and don’t prioritise their studies,” says Stacey. 

“It is important for students to strike a balance and whilst they enjoy the social aspects, there needs to be a significant amount of time management to make sure one is on top of their studies and assignments. Time management involves keeping track of assignments, tests and exams and scheduling in time to do the assignments and study. If one studies in advance, they allow time for revision. Revision is key to helping information move from one’s short-term memory to their long-term memory. This will then help to prevent students from blanking out in exams."

When it comes to dealing with understanding the content of the subject, Stacey says students don’t always grasp what is being taught and don't seek help. 

“I think, as well, many students are afraid of asking for help or assistance. Lecturers and tutors are available, and students should not be afraid to ask questions. The course load is an extreme shift from school and the pace of covering topics is fast, so it is easy to get lost and this is why lecturers and tutors are available,” says Stacey. 

"In the first year, classes are very big and so it can be daunting to ask a question. If this is so, write it down and go up to the lecturer after class to ask the question," she advises. 

“Many students also tend to leave their assignments or studying for tests/exams to the last minute and unfortunately it is impossible for the brain to hold that amount of information that was learned in such a short space of time. Many lecturers lecture with slides put up on a screen and often these slides are accessible for students. Students tend to study from these instead of their books and readings. The slides are simplified and if one was not present in class, it is possible to miss important notes or concepts,” says Stacey.

Stacey adds that students need to be mindful of “the amount of time needed to study before a test or exam as well as doing an assignment”.

She says it’s also important to take notes during lectures and have study groups. 

She adds that students should never stop attending tutorials. “They are there to assist students and provide extra support.”

Lastly, Stacey says: "The best advice is to ask for help. If you are not sure you are going in the right direction with an assignment, ask for help. If you don’t understand a question in an exam, ask for help. If you are feeling overwhelmed, ask for help. There are always facilities at these institutions that are able to assist with counselling or guidance. Make the most of your tutors and lecturers. They are there to help you." 

READ: How to tell if a college is legit or not

Image credit iStock/ jacoblund

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