Developing your independence at university

Here at Career Wise we know a thing or two about students and the journey you take during your varsity career. We have successfully supported many thousands of young students through this unique, life-changing experience and we have learned plenty along the way about the pressures new students face and the many ways in which you grow as young adults.

One inevitable challenge you will face during your varsity experience is transitioning to a much more independent life-style and learning to balance the various demands on your time and energy. In this week’s post we’d like to highlight some of the challenges relating to family and parental pressure and talk about developing your independence and building the confidence in yourself that you will carry into your adult life and your career.

It’s a feeling that is hard to beat – you’ve worked hard throughout your school career, made the difficult decisions about where and what to study – and, finally, you are accepted into university and you begin one of the most exciting and important chapters of your life. University is a unique time in your life when you are transitioning into adulthood, finding out more about yourself and the world, and making new, life-long friends. In one of our previous blog posts (i.e. “From high school to university: what to expect and how to make the most of it” ), we gave some advice on how best to manage the transition from high school to varsity, balancing the important stuff with the fun stuff.

advice for university students Another important aspect of this transition is finding and developing your independence as a young adult, in your studies as well as in your personal life. A common issue that many of our students have experienced is pressure from their parents, which can be a difficult barrier to becoming an independent university student. There are a few common issues that students seem to face, depending on the type of family you come from. We’ll run through some of them and give you a handy tip or two on how best to overcome these issues.

A very common issue we’ve seen over the years is the overbearing parents who just won’t let you make a decision on your own. From telling you what degree and university to choose, to following your study schedule and checking your homework, to telling you when you’re allowed to socialise, this type of parent refuses to let go. It’s a natural instinct for parents to protect their children and they genuinely want the best for you. However, this type of parenting stifles your independence and takes away from the important lessons you need to learn on your own. In this situation, let your parents know that you value their advice and support but that part of being an adult is building trust and confidence in yourself and your decisions. Something you won’t achieve if they are making your decisions for you.

The next issue we see quite often is mostly experienced by new bursary students who are receiving an allowance for the first time. Managing your own finances for the first time can be a steep learning curve and we suggest you refer back to our previous blog articles (i.e. How to manage your personal finances) for some useful advice. The issue arises when your family is in need of financial assistance and they turn to you because you are now receiving an allowance. It’s a very difficult position to be in because you know your family is in need and they wouldn’t ask you otherwise. However, the reality is that you receive an allowance so you can study, get your degree and find that dream job which pays you a good salary. The best way to address this is to pre-empt the problem and let your family know from the beginning that your bursary is already earmarked for certain things and you risk failing your subjects and losing the bursary if you don’t have the right books and materials. It is not an easy conversation but it’s a very important one.

And finally, another fairly common problem is parents who think university is only about results and aggregates and progress reports, as if your entire student experience can be put into a spreadsheet. They simply want to know why you only got 70% and not 80% and they never ask if you’re enjoying your course or if you’ve made new friends. Because you are experiencing so much at varsity, it’s great to be able to speak about this with your folks and share your experience. The best way to overcome this is to share as much as you can about the new people you’ve met or the things you are doing outside of studying. When they ask what you got for your test, tell them how your mark compares to your friends and talk about who you studied with. Mention the night you celebrated your result or the interesting event you attended when you took a break from studying. The more you paint a picture of your rich and varied varsity life, the more interested they’ll become.

Balancing your varsity life with your family pressures can be difficult. This can be a sensitive topic and the advice in this article is necessarily quite generic – every student and family is different and it’s up to you to navigate your family dynamics as you transition to adulthood. Just remember that your family wants the best for you and part of developing your independence is learning how to communicate with your parents and building confidence in yourself and your choices.

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