Being able to attend university or college is a real privilege. Sadly, due to South Africa’s history, there are people who didn’t have the opportunity to study further than Matric even though they would have liked to. The good news is that times have changed!
What this means though, is that lots of students find themselves to be the first person in their families to have the chance at a tertiary education. First generation college students are really common these days, and with it comes a lot of questions that parents may find hard to answer.
For many college students, the process of choosing a university and deciding what to study is made easier by talking to their parents and other family members who understand everything involved, because they themselves have been to university. For first generation students whose families do not have any experience or advice to share, it can all seem a little daunting!
Here are a few tips to help you prepare for the varsity application process and beyond:
Have a well-rounded academic record
Your academics in high school are not just about distinctions. Although there are definitely minimum requirements for university admission, what will help you adjust better to the workload at college is in having developed a good all round work ethic.
Challenging yourself academically at school is great preparation for college. For example, if you can cope with the work, a lower result in Maths far outweighs a high mark in Maths Literacy.
Get involved in extracurricular activities
While academics are important, universities are impressed by applicants who have shown initiative in other areas and are keen to continue. Whether it’s charity work, sports, arts, or even an entrepreneurial club – finding something that you love to do outside of your normal studies adds a lot of value to your application, and is also taken into account when you apply for scholarships and bursaries.
Scholarships, bursaries and financial aid
Tertiary institutions have many financial aid options for first generation students, or any students whose families might struggle with fees. Speak to your guidance counsellor who will advise you on scholarships and bursaries that you can apply for. You will need to have a solid academic record in your chosen area of study, however your involvement in other activities such as sports and clubs also counts. Many colleges also offer financial aid packages, with loans that can be repaid at a lower interest rate than if you had to go to a bank.
Being a first generation college student is an honour
Last but not least, remember that being the first person to attend university in your family is a wonderful achievement. By studying further, you’re adding value to your family and to the economy of South Africa in the long run.
Colleges welcome first generation students as it adds diversity to the student body, and will often have processes and systems in place to help guide you into varsity life. So you don’t have to be worried about anything – there will be lots of help at hand.