10 tips for first-year success

20 January 2020

Your time at university can be the best years of your life, but you’re bound to feel overwhelmed every now and then. So we’ve put together a few tips from the Student Wellness Service (SWS) to help you make the most of your first year at UCT.

1. Time management

At university, you’ll rarely have someone motivating you to attend classes or reminding you to do homework. For many first-years, this is the first time you’ll be creating your own schedule — but help is at hand! The peer counsellors at the SWS are there to assist with scheduling, study skills, mentoring and coping with exam stress.

2. Budgets

It can be daunting figuring out how to manage your own finances. Again, the SWS and its undergraduate support group are on hand to help you figure it all out.

3. Exercise

Exercise is a non-negotiable part of looking after yourself – mentally and physically. Whether you join a sports team, sign up to the UCT Gym or take laps around the rugby field, exercise is a must for holistic well-being.

4. Nutrition

You need the right nutrition to take care of your body, reduce stress, help you focus, maintain your energy levels and keep your memory in tiptop condition. Make the effort to eat healthily — and don’t forget to drink water and keep hydrated!

5. Sleep

A healthy adult should get around eight hours of good sleep a night to allow the body to rejuvenate and to keep stress levels in check. Improve your sleep by investing in ear plugs and a sleeping mask and avoiding energising drinks in the evening.


“I wish I had known to trust more in my abilities and worked to thrive, not just survive! — #phansiimpostersyndromephansi”

6. Drink responsibly

When it comes to drinking, many people don’t know when enough is enough. If you’re struggling with alcohol (or any other substance) use, the SWS has trained clinicians, peer counsellors and support forums to help. And they’ll give you all the information you need to live a healthy, responsible life.

7. Manage negative thoughts

This is often easier said than done, but don’t allow negative thoughts to snowball into something uncontrollable. Attend one of the SWS mental health workshops for managing anxiety and stresses.

8. Wellness toolkit

Take some time to create your very own wellness toolkit. Write a list of between five and 10 things that make you happy. Make sure that you do at least one of these activities every week.

9. Sexual/reproductive health

Whatever your choice is, make sure it’s safe. You can find out more about protection, prevention and contraception from the SWS.

10. Health professionals

When in doubt, see a health professional. If you need help with accessing SWS services, contact an SWS Mental Health Peer Educator or book online to see a peer counsellor.


“I wish I reached out for help and information when I needed it. I’ve always been independent and that was a barrier to getting the help I needed at the time.” — SINAZO

And please remember that you don’t have to do any of this alone! There are many SWS support groups available to help you on your way:

  • Substance/Chillers forum
  • Undergraduate support
  • Psychotherapy support
  • Khulumani Madoda forum (Men Let’s Talk)
  • Relationships support

Where to find the SWS

SWS offices are available on all of UCT’s campuses, but the main clinic is located in the Ivan Toms building on lower campus (08:30–16:30 Monday to Friday), with the most popular office on upper campus being in the UCC Steve Biko Building (temporarily closed for renovations).

The contact details

Student Wellness Service

SADAG UCT Student Careline 0800 24 25 26 (free from a Telkom line) or SMS 31393 for a callback

Crisis Intervention Service (Psychiatric Night Nurse) 021 650 2222/3

Sexual Assault Hotline 072 393 7824

Disability Service 021 650 2427

ER 24 ambulance 021 650 2222/3

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