As thousands upon thousands of students get stuck into their studies at campuses across South Africa, it is worth looking at how a good start can make the year ahead not only easier, but also much more likely to produce success, an education expert says.

Dr Felicity Coughlan, Director of the Independent Institute of Education, which is responsible for the academic leadership and governance of education and training on more than 20 registered higher education campuses throughout the country,  says by organising one’s thoughts and approach, energy and attention are focused and results improved.

She advises new students (and those who’ve been around the campus block a few times), to attempt the following tactics, and enjoy being happier, healthier and wiser throughout the year:

  1. It is important to start well, Coughlan says. “Treat your day as if it is a work day, and plan to put in 8 hours. Get up on time, early and at the same time each morning, and work between lectures. Use the library or form a study group if you cannot leave campus.  There are two advantages to this discipline – you will have to work far fewer long nights, and you get in to the habit of a work week.”
  2. Keep up with reviewing your notes. “College and university knowledge builds up very quickly, and if you fall behind it is hard to catch up. Additionally, backlogs are quickly compounded to the point of becoming unmanageable,” Coughlan says.
  3. Attend all your lectures. “If you do miss any, make a point of catching up soon. If you absolutely must skip a few lectures, never miss tutorials or workshops!”
  4. Make use of any online resources that are available to supplement your learning, advises Coughlan. They are often free, and are invaluable in increasing your exposure to and understanding of a subject.
  5. Talk to other students about your work,  as collaboration and sharing reinforce your learning; is an early warning signal to yourself if you are not really understanding and because one feels less lonely when sharing challenges with other people.
  6. Start assignments early to avoid Murphy and the stress that will arise from the inevitable failing printer or downed network.
  7. A little bit extra goes a long way. Do the extra reading. Prep for your lectures. “The payoff is exponential to the investment,” Coughlan says.
  8. Keep up with your learning. “Learning is cumulative, and if you keep up, you will not need to cram for exams.”
  9. Work through past papers. “The more exposure to your subject (and questions about it), the better. And you might just meet an old question when you’re sitting in the exam room,” says Coughlan.
  10. Take feedback seriously. If your lecturers don’t give you sufficient feedback, seek it from other peers who take their studies seriously.

“Finally, it is important to remember to enjoy yourself,” Coughlan says.

“Higher education is a privilege, and should be treated as such. Every day you are on campus is an opportunity to grow as a person and as a professional, and to prepare yourself for the brilliant future you have ahead of you.”