Freshers’ Guide: How to prepare for university life


Students of University of Kigali attend an orientation session. (Lydia Atieno)

When students complete high school, they are excited about joining university because it comes with its freedom and fun, as well as less supervision from teachers. But without adequate guidance and preparation that liberty can be recipe for disaster. It is, therefore, the role of parents and institutions of learning, among other stake holders, to provide this much needed counsel so that fresh students don’t lose focus.

Parents’ role key

“As parents, our duty is to talk to our children as adults. We have to make them understand that they are now adults who are no longer going to be supervised to attend class or not,” says Immaculate Niyonsaba, a mother of two students at university.

She adds that students should be taught how to choose between good and bad because this will enable them identify what to do at a specific time because they are not children any more to be followed around.

“When my children started university, I got a chance to interact with each. I told them to know that they are in university to secure their future. Students must be told not to forget the purpose of going to school, keeping in mind how much parents sacrifice to pay their school fees, ,” says Niyonsaba.

Fred Ishimwe, a resident of Remera, Kigali, whose daughter is in her S.6 vacation, says girls need a lot of counselling because they are more vulnerable at university.

“University is like uncharted waters in the event that one joins bad groups, especially the types that are obsessed with money; they are likely to lose out. I always advise my daughter to put God first because he is the only one who can guide her in every situation,” he says.

Ishimwe also says parents should guide their children on which course to take depending on their capabilities.

“Communication is very vital between a parent and their children. Parents should train their children to always communicate directly with them to enable them know what they are lacking or whether they are safe,” he says.

“We need to prepare our children for the life ahead of them. Psychological preparedness has a lot to do with what they are going to study and the purpose of studying it. However, it is important to start university talk even when the child is still in lower secondary so that they know what to do by the time they are joining,” says Collins Odhiambo, a counsellor and teacher based in Kigali.

Odhiambo explains that parents should reflect on these questions before their children leave for university; can my child prepare a meal? Can he or she defend him or herself when there is a problem? Can he or she stand for what is right? Can he or she plan for their lives without influence or assistance? If the answer is no, then your child is not yet ready for that transition and they need a lot of help, he says.

He also notes that it is wise for parents to listen first to what their children have to say about university life so that they supplement on it. “It should be an open discussion so that these children speak up openly about their expectations.”

Fresh students should respect time since there will not be anyone to supervise them. (Net photo)

For Damas Ntwali, the guild president University of Rwanda, the guild committee is always ready to welcome new students by guiding them on the code of conduct and about how best they can choose their careers.

“The orientation programme is necessary for all new students so that they get briefed about university norms, courses, lecture rooms and other offices, but most importantly about the rules and regulations of the university,” he says.

Ntwali adds that new students are encouraged to create partnerships and collaboration with people in all departments so that in case of a problem they are helped out.

According Jeanne D’arc Mukabatesi, the headmistress of TTC Secondary School Muhanga, students are better prepared before they reach A-level.

She notes that when children are trained how to behave when they are still in lower classes, they carry on that behaviour even when they reach university.

“We also train students about self-confidence so that when they reach university they do not depend on others, but live as independently as possible,” he says.

Mukabatesi adds that students should learn to embrace discussion groups and choose friends they think are serious about studies.

“New students should learn to differentiate between high school and life at university; they should be prepared to meet challenges and to solve them on their own since everybody else is busy minding about their business,” says Marie Claire Isingizwe, a first year student at University of Rwanda.”

She notes that fresh students should respect time since there will not be anyone to supervise them.

Isingizwe also explains that much as there are no punishments of not attending classes, students joining university should know that for one to sit final exams, he or she ought to have attended 85per cent of the classes.

Charles Kamuru, the director of communications and public Relations at University of Kigali, says it is the obligation of the university officials to brief new students about what they are expected to study and how to conduct themselves in order to graduate into good professionals.

He adds that new students should be briefed about various matters such as the rules on tuition fees payment.

Kamuru says fresh students should be encouraged to study hard so that they transform their lives, their communities and country. 

Students share tips

Vivian Irabizi

Vivian Irabizi, student, UR’s College of Business and Economics

New students should know why they are at university. Consequently, they should engage in research and not wait for the lecturer to give them all the notes as is the case in high school. They should report in time so that they book hostels and to also tour the university so that by the time serious lectures begin, they are well-versed with the area around.

MC Isingizwe

Marie Claire Isingizwe, student, University of Rwanda

Joining university means that you are mature and ready to face different challenges. Fresh students should focus on their education, befriend people with a purpose, do their assignments and in time, and always follow the university rules and regulations. They should not abuse the freedom they will get and avoid relationships.

Damas Ntwali

Damas Ntwali, student, University of Rwanda

You should join university with clear goals and objectives; be determined to work hard, use your time efficiently, but most importantly be disciplined because this will enable you relate with others effectively. Always strive to work with your fellow students and staff. Freshers should avoid risky behavior such as drug and alcohol abuse as it compromises their health and education.

Frank Rubaduka

Frank Rubaduka, student, Kigali Independent University

New students should at least find out volunteering opportunities; they should step out and participate in community development projects and programmes. They should also research on the available market opportunities and do everything in their means to boost their career and personal development.