Your First Year of Varsity -a survival guide for students

10 July 2017 - 10:02 By Deena Robinson
Your First Year of Varsity‚ a book by Shelagh Foster and Lehlohonolo Mofokeng.
Your First Year of Varsity‚ a book by Shelagh Foster and Lehlohonolo Mofokeng.
Image: Supplied

Your First Year of Varsity‚ a book by Shelagh Foster and Lehlohonolo Mofokeng‚ is not new‚ having been published in 2016‚ but as long as there are students entering tertiary education‚ it will always be relevant.

It’s described as a survival guide for those navigating their first year and the processes that come with it. Currently in third year‚ I’ve managed to get through it all.

I know that a good chunk of people in this country weren’t afforded the luxury of a decent education and support system and this book is for them; as is described in Chapter 2‚ checking your privilege is incredibly important.

This book attempts to tap into the student mindset and with the help of the co-author Lehlohonolo Mofokeng (who is a Master’s student himself)‚ this is somewhat achieved.

The section outlining fees is one of the most important sections of the book‚ as the various options are explained thoroughly‚ which is especially relevant as the fight for free tertiary education is ongoing.

I honestly don’t remember being taught about this in high school‚ which lends to the necessity of the book.

There are helpful gems throughout the book and while it is very comprehensive‚ everything is explained without it feeling too overwhelming. This could help incoming students better manage their first year and everything that comes with it‚ such as maintaining their mental health.

The practical elements of varsity are also covered‚ such as implementing and maintaining correct study habits‚ how to write academically‚ correctly writing a CV and email etiquette. All of these things are taken for granted and are not to be overlooked.

However‚ in the book’s mission to be helpful‚ it sometimes comes off as a bit naive and in some places laughable.

In the section detailing how to correctly budget‚ the template contains items so inaccurate (R300 for textbooks? Try at least R2,000-R3,000 each semester!) that I wonder what university the authors went to. This sounds insignificant but you cannot talk to students about money if you are being unrealistic; we may shut down or seek information elsewhere.

I can appreciate the authors’ attempt to help students who may be feeling nervous about fitting in socially‚ but the attempt falls flat a little when they give us steps on how to make friends.

Finally - and this is through no fault of the authors - the section on consent is extremely frustrating. Why‚ oh why do we still have to teach this?

While some elements of the book seem a little condescending (such as the glossary)‚ this book is an excellent addition to any student hoping to be more prepared for the challenges of first year.

- TimesLIVE