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Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Student Counselling’s Extended Orientation programme makes wellness a priority

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For new students, the first few weeks of the academic year are a period of both excitement and adjustment. In many cases, it is the first time they have lived away from home, and they need to start developing the survival skills that will carry them through their university studies.

The Student Counselling Department at CPUT provides emotional support to students across multiple campuses throughout the academic year. During the months of January and February, it facilitates a variety of workshops and presentations for new students, in order to ensure that their personal wellness receives as much attention as their academic orientation.

“For many years we have wanted to make our contribution more meaningful,” said Elisabet Smit, Head of the Student Counselling, Cape Town campus. “Two years ago we started Extended Orientation.”

As part of the Extended Orientation Programme, the Department visits groups of first year students at all Faculties on both the larger and the smaller campuses for ninety-minute discussion and feedback sessions.

The sessions are facilitated in as interactive a manner as possible, so that students get to know both the counsellors and each other. They are encouraged to ask questions, and share some of the objectives they’ve set for themselves for this year, as well as some challenges they expect to face as a first year student. Tips on how to succeed and survive the first year, are also shared. The tone of the sessions is kept informal, with a focus on both the serious and even the humorous sides of student life.

Another important task for Student Counselling during the orientation period is the deployment of Peer Helpers. These are senior students who are selected through an interview process and then trained with counselling and crisis intervention skills. They are assigned to residences, where they provide guidance on wellness issues throughout the year.

CPUT Student Counselling conducts regular qualitative and quantitative research on student matters and student needs. According to Student Counselling’s statistics, some of the major difficulties that students report experiencing in their first year are loneliness, adjustment to change and fear of failure.

First years often struggle with study and exam preparation and -writing techniques as well as what Smit refers to as “a lack of intrinsic drivers.” While high school learners are generally motivated by external drivers (teachers or family members) to attend to their work, a University environment ultimately requires a student to be self-driven and to take responsibility for his or her success.

Through their discussion groups, as well as through their free individual counselling service, the Department helps students learn how to rely on themselves and set achievable goals.

Smit encouraged students to make as much use of these support structures as possible. “Grab the opportunity for outside the classroom support systems right from the first day,” she said.

“It is up to you. It is your responsibility to succeed.”

By Ilana Abratt, Marketing and Communication Department

For more information about Student Counselling, use the following contact numbers

Bellville campus and Tygerberg campuses: 021 959 6182
Cape Town campus and Granger Bay campuses: 021 460 3237
Mowbray campus: 021 680 1501 / 021 680 1574
Wellington campus: 021 864 5201 / 021 864 5206

Photograph: A student assists at the Student Counselling information stand during Orientation Week.

Written by CPUT News

Email: news@cput.ac.za