2024 First Year Orientation a necessity for student success – Student Counselling director

The first year students that attended the orientation

Explaining the reasons for running the annual orientation programme for the first-time entering students, Director of the Student Counselling unit at the University’s Student Affairs department, Dr Paulette Naidoo, said that research had shown that the first year at university is a critical developmental period for young people, “posing numerous challenges, but also serving as opportunities for growth.  The transition from high school to university is a complicated process, with first years having to adjust to new academic and psycho-social demands while successfully navigating their way around campus”. Dr Naidoo said these experiences could become overwhelming and lead to academic drop-out. “It is therefore imperative for first years to be aware of the various support services and resources at their disposal, to assist them in coping more effectively while at university.” These support services Dr Naidoo is referring to are the backbone of the orientation programme.

The first-year orientation programme takes cognizance of first year student needs and challenges and seeks to equip the students with the necessary information and skills needed to successfully cope and excel in their chosen academic programmes. The programme also develops the students holistically, said Dr Naidoo.

The 2024 orientation was held at the new Student Centre which Dr Naidoo said lent itself to a more interactive, expo-like approach.  “This new approach and venue marked a significant turning point in the history of the First Year Orientation programme, which has traditionally been more formal when it was hosted at Seme Hall,” said Dr Naidoo. She said the change proved to be highly effective and successful, with the event the was held on the 27 February 2024, attracting over 2 450 first years.

Dr Naidoo commended the students for the disciplined and respectful way they conducted themselves during the Orientation. To prevent over-crowding and to allow ample time for engagement with the various support service representatives, the students were divided into batches according to the three faculties – Engineering, Natural Sciences and Management Sciences.  Students also had an opportunity to interact one-on-one with the stakeholders, asking questions and getting clarity on various issues from the Student Counselling unit, Student Development Office, Campus Health Services, Sport and Recreation unit, Student Funding Office, and Teaching and Learning Development Centre (TLDC). The first-year students also benefited from presentations from external guests, such as Nedbank, Qatar Airways and Newlands Park Rehabilitation Treatment Centre, with the latter speaking to students about the dangers of peer pressure to use recreational drugs and alcohol use.