To the matrics of 2015 who can finally say “Mama, I made it!”, congratulations!! ? I know as well as anyone that it was a long and difficult road but you did it, and for those of you going on to university, I thought I would try and impart some more wisdom on the things I wish people had told me before I got there. Some of these will have a UCT bias because you write what you know, but I’m pretty sure the rest are pretty relatable.
- Go to lectures and tutorials. You’d think this would be a given, but it can never be emphasised enough. Guys. Please. Just go to class. Make life easier for yourself – especially when tests and exams come around. You can cram learn and make up marks but don’t put that pressure on yourself! Just do it right the first time. Trust me on this – special cloth alert.
- Get organised from the get go. Make a timetable for yourself and organise your tutorials for when you learn best. I know that I had to do maths and I couldn’t do a 2 hour maths tutorial at 3pm on a Friday so I put it in the morning earlier in the week. Get a diary and actually use it! Plan your days so that you can fit other activities in there as well.
- Don’t sign up for everything. The allure of societies can be so amazing but don’t just sign up for the sake of signing up – especially in first year. Pick maybe 2 societies that you’ll actually get involved in and attend their events! I signed up for like 5 and did nothing all year – not only did I just receive tons of emails for things I didn’t go to, I wasted my parents money.
- Avoid the Ikeys Vibe people like the plague. I don’t know about other varsities but at least at UCT, these people will borderline harass you and bully you using the allure of an Ikeys t-shirt and discounts that you’ll rationalise to yourself that you’ll use but you actually really won’t. Here’s a life hack: after o-week, you can just go and buy the shirt if you want it that badly. Only get the Ikeys Vibe if you know that you’re going to use the offers.
- Try new things! You’re at university – you’re now allowed to try all the things you’ve wanted to but couldn’t. Enjoy the university experiences, the vibes, the parties, the people, the food, the environment, etc. But…
- Know your limits & the power of saying ‘no’. Trying new things is all good and fun but still – know yourself. Know what you’re willing to do and how far you’ll willing to go. Have fun, but don’t be dumb. Saying yes to life is fun and all, but also learn that there’s power in saying no. You don’t have to do everything all at once. Chill – you’ve got time.
- Prioritise. If you want to get a part time job, get involved in leadership responsibilities, have a thriving social life and academic career – you’re going to have to get your priorities straight. Plan your time so that you can get it all done and more.
- Adventure and explore your surroundings. UCT in particular can be pretty isolating, especially if you live in res. You’re on campus pretty much all the time and all your memories can easily get convoluted with schoolwork and academics. But thats when you need to make a concerted effort to go places and leave campus; do things on the other side of the mountain and remember that there’s more to the varsity experience than just academics. That said…
- Remember why you came to university. You’re at school to learn. Going out is fun, friends are fun, boys are cool and whatever but you came to get a degree. Remember your academics especially if you’re struggling.
- Make new friends. This one may seem like a given too but when you’re going to a new school (especially in a new city), it’s often very easy to just cling to the people you know from high school. While its nice to have a familiar face or two in the first few weeks while you adjust, try and make new friends! Attend orientation events and befriend people outside of your faculty as well.
- You’re not too cool to try. Leading on from the previous point, it’s okay to get involved in orientation activities and attend events and try have fun. Even if you have older friends in the area, don’t just skip over the things catered to you. Get involved and try something new!
- Surround yourself with people of similar priorities. Find people who you can groove with and study with – school can go from 0-100 real quick so you need people who you can support and can support you. Even though you graduate alone, you’re all in this together.
- Learn and unlearn. There are things you know only because you’ve been lowkey kept in a bubble for most of your life. Don’t be afraid to challenge those things – some are harmful for you and some will liberate you. Speak to people about social issues and find where you stand.
- Not all that glitters is gold. Don’t become disillusioned and try not to be too naive, especially when it comes to friendships and especially relationships. Life moves at a different pace in university as compared to high school and not everyone will have the same morals and values as you, so be clear from the get go as to what you want and learn to leave the table when you are no longer being served. Don’t let people waste your time and play with your emotions.
- Have standards. Whether it comes to relationships, friendships, your academics or alcohol – don’t mess with wastemen, don’t play with devils, pass your courses and don’t drink Russian Bear or 1818 unless you actually hate yourself. Let’s be real in 2016.
- You will fail. Listen. Be it in your endeavours or in a test or two, it might just/probably will happen. Varsity is harder than high school – so if it does happen to you, its okay. Its not the end of the world. But at the same time – don’t become complacent with failure just because it does happen. Always take it as a learning curve to do better.
- Don’t eat the fruit in the punch. When you go to parties, heed this warning.
- Don’t let people belittle your faculty. Take course choices/faculty choices seriously, and if you choose what you love, don’t let anyone make fun of you for it. There’s a big stigma especially when it comes to humanities degrees but honestly, all degrees are hard, so if you’re doing what you love, take pride in it.
- Budget! Student life is real. Things are expensive. Guys. Please use your money wisely, I can’t emphasise this enough LOL.
- Work smart, not hard. If you plan and prioritise well, you don’t have to stay in the library until 5am everyday and you can guilt-free enjoy life!
- Take accountability for yourself. You’re a grown up now, pretty much. No one’s going to chase you to go to lectures, do your course work or attend your tuts. No one’s also going to tell you no if you want to go out on a Tuesday. But you’re going to have to learn self-discipline and to take accountability for your actions.
Now here are some extra tips from the good people of Twitter:
- “It’s not that deep.” – @Lolly_Magz. Amen to that. That actually became one of my mantras last year, because even when it is that deep, it’s not that deep. You’ll be okay.
- “You might start questioning things you always believed to be true. That’s ok. Varsity is a time to figure things out.” – @gorahtah
- “As exciting as everything is, always remember why you’re there: to get the degree.” – @NuggetNinja_96
- “Junk food is easy to eat when your mom isn’t around to complain or ask where that whole pack of biscuits went.” – @LD_P
- “Varsity is hard AF. If you got great marks at school, you won’t necessarily get those marks in uni. I got great marks at school and only now in third year did I finally manage to get firsts for both of my subjects.” – @LD_P
- “Don’t give into peer pressure. Cliche, but true. Don’t do things you don’t want to just to try keep up. Nobody really cares.” – @LD_P – preach!!! Nobody really does care what you do with your life and your body. Just do you, boo.
- “Long Street is dangerous. Like seriously, you will come home with what you’re wearing.” – @sizipari (for my UCT/UWC/CPUT/Vega/VC/Stellies kids, take note. To the girls, I suggest clutch handbags with a wrist strap rather than a sling bag – at least you’ll always have your hands on your valuables.)
- “Tutorials are a thing. [I] never knew about them until my first official class.” – @seemenow_. Real talk. I know that at UCT, missing attendances and submissions can prevent you from passing courses, so take them seriously!
If I left anything out, just feel free to comment your own tips below! You can always look up #UCTFreshersAdvice and #WitsFreshersAdvice on Twitter if you need a few more tips for those respective universities!
Anywho, I wish you all the best of luck for your future endeavours and I hope these help. Varsity is what you make it and may 2016 be filled with love, light, success and lots of fun. Enjoy it!