Okay, so you’ve been accepted into an awesome tertiary institution and there are a bunch of mixed emotions going on in your gut. We get it.
You could be feeling overwhelmed with the level of excitement, or you could be shaking in your boots for a number of reasons.
Well, we get the bittersweet emotions of leaving the familiar to embark on something new, which is why we have a few tips for dealing with the most common fears and anxieties around starting your first year of study.
Tertiary education: A giant leap
Stepping into your first year of tertiary education really is a giant leap. There are many adjustments that you’ll need to make, and there are a few things that become very real.
For example, when you are in Matric, you are generally governed by the bell and a group of classmates who all have the same schedule as you do. When you hit your first year of varsity or college, you may find that your schedule is totally different from anyone else’s depending on the courses you’ve applied for.
Another reality check is managing your own studies, rather than having your teacher constantly looking over your shoulder and nudging you in the ‘pass’ direction. When you get to first year, you might find yourself in much larger classes, and a lecturer with little time to properly keep track of you.
Needless to say, it really is time to put your big boy/ girl panties on and get a new attitude towards your education and your future. It is a truly amazing opportunity, and quite liberating as well, once you learn to manage your fears and anxieties well.
A list of common fears
#1: Starting a new life alone
The fear of starting out all alone can be very real for a lot of students heading into first year. It’s really rooted in our inherent need to connect with other, familiar, faces – even if you consider yourself an introvert.
It is totally normal, and the best thing you can do about it is to recognise that you have always had the ability to make at least one friend, and now won’t be any different. The best friendships form when you have a common ground, and it is highly likely that all the other first years are feeling just as terrified as you are.
In fact, the friends you study with are often the friends who tend to stick around the longest!
#2: Failing your courses
This is another totally legitimate fear, although we also recognise that the word ‘fear’ can actually stand for “false evidence appearing real.”
Fear of failing your courses can feel overwhelming as the workload can feel like a big step up from high school, but the reality of it is that you actually don’t know until you start to engage in the content. These things are not always as bad as they seem.
If you do feel like you are struggling, be sure to reach out to peers, lecturers and other support systems at your institution. It is always better to ask for help from the get-go than you wait for the issue to become unmanageable. Take it slow, and remember that the point of starting to study is to engage in the course material and learn to understand it. Take the pressure off yourself to know it all off the bat. Giving yourself the time to learn and grow into your studies can really take the pressure off. You just gotta back yourself!
#3: FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)
Yes, you heard correctly. FOMO can be a real issue for many first-year students! With all the shifting and adjusting to a whole load of new things, it can be incredibly daunting to feel like you don’t belong, or you aren’t part of the ‘in’ crowd or any kind of crowd for that matter.
The truth is that you have applied to study at this institution for a reason. You value your future and your career is looking bright and sometimes you need to just put your head down and focus on that until you get the chance to invest in some friendships and social events.
#4: Not being accepted
This can be a tough one, because of how different we all are. We can sometimes fall into that trap of feeling insecure, and like no one will like you or you don’t belong.
Friendships and inclusion will come as long as you choose to step out and make the right friends. Start making some good friends with those in your tutorials or small groups. Often those are the people you end up feeling most comfortable around because you spend a lot of time around them. Trust yourself to find your niche. Joining clubs and societies is also a great way to meet other students with similar interests.
#5: Debt, student loans and money
Oh goodness, this is a never ending story for most students. Money can really freak you out, especially if you have taken out a student loan.
Create a budget and stick to it. Your budget should include a debt repayment plan (if you have a student loan, then you definitely need to make sure you stick to a repayment plan). Don’t stress about money, rather do what you can to earn some extra cash in your free time or when you have a holiday.
You can even take our budgeting course.
All in all, we really do believe in you, and sometimes you need to just choose to believe in yourself more than focussing on all the worries. As soon as you get into it, you’ll wonder what you were ever even worried about in the first place.