Experiences of academic and social transition from rural high school to first year university: a case study of the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Cele, Innocentia Nondumiso.
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Numerous studies show that the transition from high school to university is disconcerting and stressful especially for first generation students from rural communities, who experience additional challenges of disadvantaged schooling backgrounds. This study focused on the Bachelor of Commerce – Extended Curriculum (BCom4) Programme students’ experiences of academic and social transitioning from rural KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) schools to higher education – in this case the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). Phenomenology was used to understand, interpret and describe the qualitatively different experience of students. Data was collected through the interviews to get an in depth understanding of rural students’ experiences and purposive sampling to identify participants of which seven students were identified as participants. This study of rural students is located within the two clusters of student development theories: (a) psychosocial, which focuses on self-reflection and interpersonal dimensions of student lives and (b) the cognitive structural, which explains how students think, reason, organise and interpret their experiences and it was informed by the Chickering’s Seven Vectors of Student Development Theory. This qualitative study argues that universal access to technology minimises the psychosocial effects of distance. Consequently, with improved technology and the rising number of “Millennial” students, first year transition to higher education is not quite the archetypical image portrayed in the literature. This contradicts the belief that rural parents are disinterested in students’ studies, since it suggests that rural families who themselves have received a university education are more involved and invested in academic matters. Finally, emerging evidence signals that the BCom4 programme offers an abundance of academic support to ameliorate rural schooling deficits.