Understanding coping mechanisms used by first and second year university students in the transition from secondary to tertiary education: a case study of University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard College.
Kunene, Siphesihle Ndumiso.
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The existing literature has acknowledged that student enrolment in South African universities has meaningfully amplified. However, current studies have also exposed that student dropout rates are high, especially among first years and disadvantaged students. Studies have also indicated that the transition from secondary to university education is a stressful experience and a challenging time for most university first years. The surviving literature has revealed the major challenges encountered by first year university students during the transition phase. However the coping strategies were unknown. This study therefore explored coping mechanisms used by first- and second-year university students in the transition from secondary to tertiary education at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard College. A qualitative, exploratory and descriptive design was used in this study. The sample size consisted of fifteen (15) participants in total; seven first years and eight second years from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard College campus. The sample was stratified according to all four colleges applicable at Howard College (college of agriculture, engineering and science, college of health science, college of law and management studies) and at least 3-4 participants were recruited per college. In this study, data was collected using semi structured interview guide. The findings revealed that challenges faced by university first years, mostly include the monetary challenges, environmental adaptation, securing accommodation and adjusting to the university workload. Equally the findings of the study exposed that students rely on different coping mechanisms during the transition from second to tertiary education. The study revealed that university first-timers at UKZN, Howard College campus capitalise on coping mechanisms such a religion, social networks, resilience and campus connectedness/friends. The study has shed light on the coping mechanisms used by first- and second-year university students in the transition from secondary to tertiary education at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard College campus. The study has certified that providing support systems is essential to ensure that they mitigate the challenges usually encountered by university first-year students, equally this is vital for the adaptation of university first years.