Entering university studies: identifying enabling factors for a successful transition from school to university
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The South African higher education sector is faced with high attrition and low retention rates. Studies conducted by the Council on Higher Education in South Africa have found that 50% of black students who access university study drop out, and the majority of dropouts occurred in the first year of study. While these studies revealed what the challenges were and why they occurred, not much has been done to overcome or prevent the challenges. Therefore, knowledge on how first-year students could be assisted and guided to adjust successful to the university environment is paramount. The goal of this article is to determine which factors enable new students’ successful adjustment to the university environment. Identifying these factors was deemed important because they could be used to assist and guide new student cohorts. Thirty-two first-year students were the research participants, and data were collected from all of them through a questionnaire, two written reflective pieces, the students’ results and individual interviews. Content analysis, using a three-stage open coding process, was used to categorize the findings into themes and sub-themes. The findings revealed that 20 of the 32 students had difficulty overcoming their transition challenges and failed some or all their subjects at the end of their first year of study. The remaining 12 students overcame their challenges and achieved study success. They identified three overall factors that enabled them to adjust and integrate successfully to the university environment.