Ntwanano Mathebula. First Year. The transition from high school to embark on university studies is one of the critical stages in a student life. This is the time when students have to learn new academic and social survival skills amongst others, without the guidance of their guardians.
Most of these students, during the first months of university, struggle to balance between academic and new social demands brought by the new university environment. The study was conducted among first year Public Administration students through a close-ended questionnaire.
The paper therefore, compares experiences and strategies that are used for survival in the first year of university. The challenges identified during the data analysis are presented together with recommendations that can assist with survival strategies and therefore curb high dropout rates among first year students. Policymakers should thrive to comprehend the This is the period where new entrants in benefits of embarking on tertiary education and university are confronted with challenges of the consequences incurred by students in their having to adjust survival skills outside the guid- verge to survive first year of studying Castle- ance of their parents and guardians.
Even though man and Page However, those students the decision to attend university is one encour- know a little about the challenges they are ex- aged by parents and universities, students are pected to go through in order to climb the high- left on distress where they are expected to cope est ladder in academia. This paper reports on on their own. However, the university experi- the findings conducted among Public Ad- ence is an important opportunity for both per- ministration students at the University of Lim- sonal growth and development Richardson et popo.
Although the paper acknowledges bias al. Furthermore, according to Shim and in the data collected due to the representativity Ryan , a university environment provides of the sample, it could serve as a pointer to- a platform where students have an opportunity wards the broader picture. The paper begins by providing a brief background, research meth- to expand their social circles and networks. These ods and the presentation of findings. This be- can adjust and cope within the new environ- comes a period where some students experience ment from home.
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Despite the challenges of social cohesion, The study was guided by the following poor academic results in most instances is as a objectives: result of factors such as the use of new techno- 1. To investigate challenges confronting first logical advanced equipment Nkondo et al. To establish root causes of such challenges chardson et al.
This study in order to propose recommendations. The data collected through university environment. Many of the challeng- the questionnaire was filtered and categorised es which are prevalent at the university current- according to the challenges and analysed ac- ly, dates as far as the apartheid era. However, cording to such categories.
The study is only the university as compared to other South Afri- limited to the first year Public Administration can universities fails to provide effective sup- students at the University of Limpopo. The University of the North details of respondents in terms of gender, age as it was known before , was established groups and the degree programme. By judging the number of prominent so- students in the Public Administration class. However, the findings of the study can be utilised as an indicator of the gen- METHODS eral challenges and prospects that exists within the class of the chosen sample and the overall This paper reports and discusses on an in- university population.
An anonymous questionnaire was The aim of this section is to present some of distributed among the Public Administration stu- the challenges confronting first year students at the University of Limpopo. The challenges dents for the academic year during the sec- range from; choosing study programmes, the ond semester. Students were informed that their enrolment and registration processes, balanc- identity would remain anonymous and that their ing social and academic life, affordability of food, participation was voluntary.
The questionnaire accessing study material and libraries, academic comprised closed-ended questions for the de- stress, accommodation, confidence in the use mographic data and furthermore, their percep- of computers and other identified challenges. Some of the questions raised in the The Choice of Degree Programmes questionnaire included amongst others; their first choice degrees, the enrolment and registration In this section the respondents were asked processes of the university, access to on-cam- whether the current degree being pursued was pus accommodation, access and the use of tech- their first choice.
Hence this is a challenge that could be attribut- While the majority of the respondents are able ed to high failure rates where students do not to strike a balance, their academic performance enrol for their programmes of choice. Further- remains low. The sample of respondents is mainly Groceries those rejected by other departments due to dif- ferent required entry levels.
In most instances, Generally, the University of Limpopo largely high school students do not attend career exhi- registers students from previously disadvan- bitions where they are advised on detail on the taged backgrounds. Most of the university stu- degrees they should choose. However, in this dents depend on the National Student Financial study, 82 percent of the respondents attended Aid Scheme NSFAS , which is a loan payable exhibitions and open weeks, while 18 percent upon completion and finding inroads in the work- did not attend during their tenure in high schools.
The fund only finance part of their tuition and accommodation and leaves students strand- Enrolment and Registration Processes ed for food and other essentials. However, there are students from good backgrounds who also Due to increased intakes of first year stu- utilise NSFAS which affect the capability of the dents by universities, there has been an in- fund to sufficiently accommodate the needy. In creased burden in the enrolment and registra- this study, students were asked whether they tion processes. Accordingly, there is a need to are able to afford groceries and other essential expand the enrolment support in order to de- that last for a month.
As it has been articulated, crease strains on the academic system facing it was not shocking to learn that 63 percent of dilemmas of expanded enrolment Mouton et al.
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In this section, students were asked to ceries while only 37 percent of the respondents rate the enrolment and registration processes of can afford groceries. This challenge has led to the University of Limpopo.
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The general perception is that the pro- Access to Study Rooms and Libraries cesses are frustrating. Access to an equipped library during the Table 2: Enrolment and university registration first year of higher education is vital for academ- procedures ic success, and an essential component of good Frustrating Acceptable Exceptional information literacy practices.
In this sec- tion, students were asked of places where they Balancing social and academic life could study and evaluate the quality of material in the prove difficult for first year students, particular- university library. The This paper probed whether students were asked summary in Table 3 shows different spaces within if they were able to balance between social and the University of Limpopo which they access academic life.
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It is shocking to learn that 93 per- for study purposes. In terms of the stressor that is, meeting dead- The summary in Table 4 derives from Table 3 lines , 85 percent of the respondents are able to and shows the state of the University of Limpo- meet deadlines while a mere 15 percent are un- po library. The paper probed the state of the able to meet deadlines. Although majority of the re- spondents in this study indicated that they most- Perceived Confidence and Knowledge of ly study at the university library, the spaces are Using Computers confined and characterised with obsolete and out-dated study material.
Computers have become global, and are used more effectively by the younger population Al- Table 4: The state of the university library lan and Seaman ; OECD In this study, a staggering 98 per- cent of the respondents started using comput- Based on Tables 3 and 4 and the information ers for the first time in their first year as universi- provided above, it can be concluded that major- ty students, while only mere 2 percent of the ity of the students do not utilise the university respondents had the access to computers be- library for study purposes.
This could be attrib- fore they ventured into university environment. Upon observa- proving. Students were asked as to whether they tion, it was learnt that the university library does are coping with the use of computers and other not have an updated database and the material technological equipment.
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Generally the Meeting Deadlines knowledge of computer facilities has improved among first year students. This can be attribut- Academic stress refers to the pressure to ed to the introduction of computer studies perform well in school particularly in assess- among high school students in South Africa. This view is supported by Yumba Access to Housing and Accommodation whereby he states that, academic stress on Campus Facilities are caused by both internal and external envi- ronment that upsets balance, thus affecting Access to accommodation on-campus facil- physical and psychological well-being and re- ities is not a challenge pertinent to the Universi- quiring action to restore balance.
According to Talebloo and Orientation for First Year Students Baki student accommodation off-campus facilities is unsafe, poor and expensive. The Orientation programmes are a set of various University of Limpopo does not have adequate activities aimed at supporting new students in student accommodation which in turn exposes their transition of higher institutions of learning the students to crime, squalid conditions, and Owusu et al. Coherent first-year experi- inconvenience.
In this section, students were ence programs, which include precollege and asked to state their place of accommodation. A ongoing orientation programmes, first-year staggering 71percent of the respondents stay in seminars, and other new student advising and accommodations off-campus while a mere 29 study group experiences, appear to be linked percent of the respondents have accommoda- to a variety of positive outcomes for first-year tion access to on-campus facilities.
Orientation pro- grammes are meant to acquaint first year stu- Other Challenges dents to the new learning environment and teaching them survival skills. In this study, stu- Despite some of the challenges discussed dents were asked to rate the orientation pro- above, students expressed major concerns with gramme as offered to first entering students by regard to the frequent changing of lecturers and the University of Limpopo.
Furthermore, it must The summary in Table 6 shows how students be acknowledged that Limpopo Province is com- perceive the importance and usefulness of ori- prised of different tribes thus the issue of diver- entation programmes as offered by the universi- sity becomes a major challenge for students.
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These are the programmes Other common challenges among students in- aimed at teaching new students the dynamics clude the lack of study material, adapting to the and complexities of the university environment. The paper sought to vided above, it can be concluded that although identify some of the contributing factors to these majority of the respondents considers the ori- challenges.
The ensuing section discusses some entation programme to be effective, there are of the causes of the challenges confronting first other students who still perceive the programme year students. This may be at- tributed to the fact that students in this study Academic and Writing Workshops are still finding it very difficult to survive in the new academic environment.
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