How to Transition from High School to University: Tips for Students

by Staff Reporter

Many students find the transition from high school to student life to be quite challenging. That’s why we’ve put together a handy guide to make your transition from high school to university as easy as possible. 

Whether you’re preparing for university, in the middle of orientation or busy with classes (and still trying to figure everything out), we’re here to make your first few weeks at university an absolute breeze!

Table of Contents


If you are preparing to head off to university, you are going to need to get a few things in order before your first day on campus. Here are some of the things you will need to organise and prepare for.

1. Budget Your Student Finances

If you haven’t heard the phrase “student budget” yet, get ready to hear and use that phrase a lot. As a student, it is likely that you will have a minimal budget monthly to use on the various needs that students have—including accommodation, transport, food, textbooks and even social events, depending on where you stay and how you get to campus. The best way to manage all of these costs of being a student is to set up a budget. 

How to Set Up a Student Budget

To set up a student budget, all you need to do is set up a spreadsheet with the amount you have monthly, and list the expenses you have monthly.

Divide your student expenses into two categories: essential (for example, rent, textbooks, food) and non-essential (for example, social events, eating out). You can then split your income across your expenses, starting with the essential ones, to see how much money you have for each expense. 

The key to setting up a student budget is to make sure that your expenses are never more than your income. Ideally, you’ll want to have at least R200 left over after all of your deductions and payments have been made.

The beauty of having that leftover money in your student budget is that you can either spend it on whatever you want or save it. That is why you should have a splurge section or a saving section. 

Blog images 80

2. Manage Your Schedule

Similar to budgeting when you are transitioning from school to university, you are going to need to be prepared to manage your schedule.

You will probably no longer have your parents or guardians waking you up in the morning to prepare you for school. You are going to have to wake yourself up, at an early enough time, to get ready for classes.

Classes at university usually start at different times every day, so that will mean staying on top of your schedule to know when you need to get up and get ready every day.

Additionally, most classes don’t have a register, which means it can be easy to skip class. This can become a common practice with students; however, it is a bad idea. Class attendance has been seen to be directly correlated with student performance; you are more likely to do well and not fail if you attend classes.

3. Prepare for the Life of a Student

When you are getting ready to go to university, it is important to get into the correct mindset. You are going to face a variety of new challenges, and experiences. Some will be good and some will be bad, but having the right mindset throughout that will help you. 

If you want to get through your first year of university successfully, here are a few things you need to prepare for: 

  • Your marks may drop: University is far more academically challenging than school, and so, it’s common for students’ marks to drop. Once you discover the amount of work university requires and get used to the new learning environment you can get these marks back up. 
  • It will be lonely at first: Going to a new environment is always somewhat scary, and making new friends takes time. Loneliness at the beginning of varsity is to be expected, but don’t worry, it won’t be long before you have your own group of friends with similar interests to you.
  • You need to keep yourself accountable: At university, it is up to you to make sure that you pass, and that you have as good an experience as possible. A big part of that is being accountable to yourself. 
  • You are going to have to develop your own moral code: Once you leave school, you are able to do a lot more and will be presented with different opportunities. You will need to decide for yourself what you believe to be right or wrong once at varsity. No one will be there to make those decisions for you.
  • You’ll learn a lot about yourself: A huge benefit of university is that it teaches you a lot about yourself. Take advantage of that, and use this time to figure out what you want out of life and who you want to be.

4. Get to Know the University

If you want to navigate your university campus well, you’re going to need to get to know the campus itself. Most universities will try to have campus tours during orientation week, but you should take some time to walk around campus and find out as much as you can about it during your first few weeks of university.

Find out where the admin building is, figure out where you can get the best coffee and discover the best study spot in the library. This knowledge will help you during the rest of your degree. These will also become places you can show off to your friends and help them enjoy their studies even more.

There will probably be the occasional one-hour breaks between many of your classes, during those moments take the time to walk around the university and discover the key aspects of your campus. A lot of these spots will also be shown to you during orientation, so take note when you are being guided around campus too.

student accommodation at university

5. Adapt to Your New Accommodation

You might be living at home, in res or digs when you start studying. Whatever your living situation is, it’s going to be different from when you were at school. If you are living away from home, it is important to set up your room as homely as possible. 

You can make your room feel homely by adding photos from home, or something that reminds you of your family. You can also make your room more homely by figuring out what you really like and designing your room around that. 

At university, you’ll have the freedom to design your room as you like it. The more comfortable and homely your room is, the more restful it will be. 

6. Make Friends at University

Finding friends at university can be incredibly tough, but once you do have friends, they’ll be a great help in the transition from high school to university.

Fortunately, people at university are often friendly and ready to make friends. However, to help you here are a few ways you can make friends at university

  • Talk to your neighbours: If you’re in a university residence or private residence, talking to your neighbours will help you develop friends who live right next door.
  • Go to class: Interestingly, class is a great way to make friends at university. During the first few weeks, everyone is equally confused, so in class that becomes an easy conversation topic. 
  • Study on campus: When you’re working on campus, you may meet people studying the same subjects as you; or, it may just provide an environment where conversation can happen easily.
  • Take advantage of coffee and lunch breaks: At university, friendships are built over coffee breaks. If you meet people don’t be afraid of inviting them to join you for a coffee or lunch break, as it could result in a meaningful friendship. 
  • Join a student society or club: Clubs and societies at university are a great way to meet people with similar interests, which can help you make friendships much easier.
  • Arrange a study group: You’re going to have a lot of studying to do, so why not do that with people and make friends? A study group will help you develop some cool friendships, get into interesting debates, and get helpful tips for your work.

7. Take Advantage of Student Resources

You’ll discover this pretty quickly once when you get to university, but most universities in South Africa have a vast array of resources for students to succeed. These resources are often specifically there to help you with the transition from school to university. Most universities in South Africa will have the following resources: 

  • A university library: The library will help you study, get access to computers for work, meet people, and more. 
  • Student discounts: A student card is a great enabler for saving, look for student discounts around campus. 
  • Academic resources: Many of these will be accessible online or in the library; they will be a necessity for you to pass your degree.
  • Career days: Often, universities will host different companies on campus to chat with students about different career opportunities. This can help you secure a job straight after you graduate. 
  • Talks and seminars: Different faculties often host talks and seminars from various people or organisations. These are great ways to learn, meet new people and to network. 
  • Mental Health Services – Most universities have a medical centre where you can get help for a variety of health issues, importantly this includes mental health services. If you are struggling with mental health issues, reach out and talk to someone from the health centre at your university. 
student jogging at university campus

8. Develop Healthy Coping Mechanisms for Stress

You are going to be faced with a lot of new stresses when you enter university. You will need to develop various coping methods to help you handle the new stressors. 

You will need to use the healthiest coping mechanisms to deal with your stress or learn new ones. Some good coping mechanisms are to exercise, spend time with friends, phone your family, read a book, meditate or just go for a walk around campus.   

There are a variety of other healthy ways you can use to cope with student stress. If you know of other ways to do so, use those methods. Knowing what helps you cope with stress will help you figure out how to survive the transition from high school to university.

Get Student Funding With Fundi

One of the main reasons that students struggle with the transition from high school to university is a struggle with finances. If you want to avoid that struggle, Fundi can help you. 

Fundi provides funding for all kinds of educational needs—from tuition fees and laptops to textbooks, accommodation and more.

Related Articles