Joining university: Early preps will save you last minute panic

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A student learns tailoring. Learning a new skill in the vacation will make you more competitive on the job market. / File

Last month, the Ministry of Education released the 2016 A-level examination results. The general pass rate was registered at 89.5 per cent, a 0.3 per cent improvement from the 2015 performance. In general, boys performed better than girls with 93 per cent passing the national exams, while 86.5 per cent of the female candidates passed.

In total, 36,916 candidates who sat A-level exams acquired the minimum points required to join higher learning institutions.

Some students may be wondering what’s next after their high school, while others could be confused about what should be their priorities in this transition period.

While moving from high school to college can be a big transition for students, there is need to prepare in time, get organised and build a foundation for higher studies to avoid the woes of panicking at the last minute.

Dr Innocent Sebasaza Mugisha, the executive director of the Higher Education Council (HEC), says that based on the fact that education is the foundation to a bright future, students should take enough time to choose what to study based on their capacity and what is needed at the labor market rather than merely opting for courses their friends are pursuing.

“Students have to decide what they are looking for in a particular institution by asking themselves the type of career they want after studies and if such programmes match their dream careers,” he says.

Choosing the programme and institution

For students who will join private higher learning institutions, they have to first check whether the institution is accredited.

“Visit the HEC website to check the list of all accredited institutions and the programmes they are allowed to offer to avoid having issues later on,” Mugisha says.

He adds that in case of any confusion or lack of clarity, students can call the HEC officials for any support because they are ready to help them make good decisions.

Stephen Mugisha, a teacher and book publisher, says at this time when high school graduates are waiting to undertake their university studies, focus should mainly be to invest in reading as much as possible.

Considering that university course works consist of substantially more reading and research than it is in high school, Mugisha is convinced that they should start getting used to the increased volumes or literature.

He also urges them to develop strong communication skills to get the ability to convey their ideas clearly and work collaboratively.

Mugisha also believes that taking enough time to grow their technical skills and become comfortable with new technologies is an essential and important part for varsity readiness.

“Students should spend time sharpening their technical aptitude and learning new tools as it helps them complete projects and assignments on time. It will also enable them to type quickly and accurately, as well as to know how to navigate online platforms for research,” he says.

Find career or apprenticeship opportunities

Juuko Margaret, a university lecturer, says that because there is no guarantee for public scholarships, it would be wise for students to start looking for any possible job opportunities (even small offerings) to raise money and do saving so that if they don’t have a bursary they can pay for themselves.

“With so much competition for graduate jobs, they need to use their spare time and long holiday breaks to boost their CVs. Whether it is paying or not any work placement can provide practical skills, professional contacts and career inspiration useful for a life time,” she counsels.

Jjuuko also says that while some high school graduates think that this holiday is a good time to team up with buddies to relax or engage in drug or alcohol abuse, instead, they should use it in a profitable way looking for jobs, internship or volunteering opportunities among others.

“They can also look for short courses offered by the Workforce Development Authority (WDA) to acquire vocational training and new skills, hence expand their career opportunities,” she says.

On the other hand, Jeovanie Uwantege, a mother of five, says that saving or planning for children’s education fees should start now to avoid last minute pressure.

“Those who have failed to do it in the past can still start saving now no matter how small their income is. Parents have to encourage their high school graduates to find jobs to complement them when paying fees,” she says.

Students share tips

“Now that I know my examination results I think it is high time I started looking for a job. I’m making online job searches, asking friends and acquaintances for any possible offer. I hope to get it soon and start saving for my studies ahead,” says Nadine Niyitegeka, a high school graduate.

For Samuel Mujyanama, a fourth year journalism student at University of Rwanda, even if one gets a public university bursary, they cannot rely on it.

“The living allowance given now is small. This is a good time for students to do their best to start earning some money to be able to survive at university,” he says.

Aimable Twagirayezu, a third year student at University of Kigali, says the different university fees structure now can be helpful while making plans and choosing which institution to join.

“I graduated from high school five years ago and I was not taken on public bursary. My parents could not afford to pay my fees immediately and I had to wait two years doing simple jobs and saving the money I earned. Until now, I contribute to what my parents give me for fees. I study in the night shift to be able to work during the day. My advice is that parents and students should save for their studies to avoid such inconveniences I encountered,” says Anne Ndayishimiye, a Kigali Independent University student.