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In an attempt to curb high drop out rates more institutions offer orientation programmes to help students adjust to varsity life. Very often students experience freedom and independence for the first time in their lives when they enter university.

The University of Cape Town hosts an orientation week at the start of each year which includes talks on safety and alcohol abuse in order to prepare students for what lies ahead.

“Many first-year students are curious about trying out new experiences, and we want to give them information to help them make wise choices”, says Patricia Lucas, Manager of Media Liaison & Communications at UCT.

Very often students experience freedom and independence for the first time in their lives when they enter university.

This can be overwhelming and many are not ready for the responsibility that comes with such freedom.

Regardless of their previous life experience, "UCT treats students as young adults who are capable of making their own choices."

Alcohol and drug abuse, promiscuous behaviour, unplanned pregnancy, abortions and wild parties are some of the issues that have plagued higher education institutions for generations.

Many young people turn to these forms of escape in order to deal with the pressures of varsity life which can be detrimental to their studies and career later on.

Romantic relationships can also distract students from their studies but again it is left to the student to manage those relationships.

“UCT’s Code of Conduct does not address issues around dating or romantic relationships between students. UCT does have policies that expressly prohibit sexual harassment and sexual violence...”

There is a huge need for students to be informed and counselled through these difficult choices, however academic institutions can only do so much to assist students during this transitional period.

“We expect this sort of education to have been dealt with in the family or high school..we also respect the rights of UCT students to make their own choices as young adults” , says Lucas.

While UCT provides day care centres, student wellness services and faculty-based counselling, it is clear that the priority of the institution is academic learning and development.

Parents and students need to understand the risks and dangers associated with varsity life in order to equip young people to avoid bad influences and make good decisions at this pivotal time.

It is imperative that students have a strong support structure at home and build a network of trusted friends to help them navigate their first year successfully.







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