Ahead of the eight-ball

The secret is maintaining a healthy and workable balance between TAFE and other things that are important to you

Make no mistake, this is where you want to be. And where you want to stay. Starting your TAFE year in a strong position means you're increasing your chances of acing your studies, topping your class and having an enjoyable ride in the process.

But hang on, you may be thinking, that's easier said than done.

True enough. Starting a TAFE course, especially if it's your first study since high school, can be daunting and emotional. There's a lot to think about, a lot of information to take in. And if you've moved to a different city or town for your studies, there are also other factors that can potentially mess with your equilibrium, like being homesick and paying rent and bills.

It's helpful to remember that just because you've embarked on a new TAFE adventure, doesn't mean other aspects of your life should be ignored or downgraded. The secret is maintaining a healthy and workable balance between TAFE and other things that are important to you.

[quote]"Pursue relaxation activities and keep a positive attitude by maintaining positive self-talk. Organise your time to make room for study, social activities, sleep (very important), fun and family. It's about balancing your studies with activities you find enjoyable." - Jim Sheedy, TAFE NSW Counsellor.[/quote]

Glenn Fairweather, a TAFE NSW Counsellor agrees, adding that this can often mean rethinking your priorities.

"Adding TAFE to your schedule means less time for other things," he says. "Reviewing your priorities allows you to add TAFE but still have time for other important areas such as family, social life and exercise. Time given to lower priorities such as TV and computer games will need to be reduced to allow you to achieve your study goals."

Being prepared for the unexpected is another way of staying on top of things. Keeping your study schedule, personal finances and social activities well organised will help you bounce back quickly if life throws you a curve ball. Paul Colwell, a Senior Counsellor for TAFE NSW, believes that you'll improve your chances of getting through any tough times if you're flexible with your study goals. "This includes not letting assessments or study demands build up too much that they become overwhelming if things get disrupted," he explains. "Getting familiar with and using TAFE's study support services and resources will also go a long way to making things easier."

Sue Bailey, TAFE NSW Counsellor, agrees. "Become organised with your work," she says. "Clearly understand when assessments are due and try not to leave them to the last minute."

Homesickness and loneliness are also common issues TAFE NSW counsellors see with new students. Jim Sheedy suggests these emotional issues can be mitigated by keeping in regular contact with home and loved ones, making new friends and being active in positive pursuits.

"Sometimes students are juggling many demands, under financial strain or realise their personal needs have changed," says Paul Colwell. "Often we talk with students who are dealing with complex life issues at the same time as starting a course."

A lot of sensible advice. We'll leave the last word to Sue Bailey. "It's natural to feel uncertain, however you're not alone. As well as the many other students who are in the same situation, there are plenty of staff who will help you. Studying at TAFE means you're going to the next stage of your education, so be the best you can. Strive to excel in such a wonderful adult learning environment."