Our experience with part time studies

Studying part time was probably the hardest few years of my life! I studied my BCompt and CTA part time through UNISA while working and finishing up my articles. I then did my Masters part time through University of Pretoria.

It was a  number of years of 4am mornings and midnight study sessions, of sleep deprivation and not enough time off! I wish I had a magic formula, but since I completed my studies and earned that all illusive CA (SA) designation, I have been lecturing and helping BCompt and CTA students get through their own UNISA journey.

If I look back, there are two core things that helped me pass and have consistently helped my students survive the year:

  1. Treat your studies like a journey, not a destination;
  2. Persistence is more important than intelligence

Let me elaborate a bit......

Treat your studies like a journey, not a destination:

There are two types of people in my experience,
•    people who focus on the journey and
•    people who focus on the destination. Let me use hiking as an illustration.

A few years ago I went on a 5 day hike, and there were two people on the hike who woke up extra early every morning and took responsibility for rushing everyone to get up and get packed, and then walked out in front by themselves and every now and then cam back to rush everyone along so that we could get to the destination as quickly as possible.

These two "destination people" were stressed out the whole hike, and missed the great conversation, jokes and constant leisure breaks the rest of us took to take in the beautiful scenery. The rest of us "journey people" were not as worried about rushing to the destination, but rather enjoyed each others company, took in all the sights and thoroughly enjoyed the walk together.

Now compare this to your studies, yes it will be good to finish the year and pass the final exams. The issue is that your part time studies are probably the longest years you will experience and if all you focus on is the end of the studies you will battle to keep motivated on a daily basis as it is so far away for most of the year.

The trick is to find company for your studying journey, form a study group and make friends who are studying as well - a journey is always better with other people who are going through the same struggles that you are. It is also worthwhile to find a guide, look into joining up some tuition support program or at the very least make the effort to get to know your UNISA lecturers.

Focus on the journey, it will help you get up every day and make the most of the day ahead of you. If you live for some exam a few months away you will struggle to do what is necessary today!

Persistence is more important than intelligence:

Your studies can be compared to a boxing match in which you are boxing out of your weight class against an opponent that is faster and stronger than you. Studying will beat you up for most of the year, and you will find many of your fellow students giving up and dropping out as it all feels too much. You will feel that you are not as smart as you need to be, that you are too lazy compared to your classmates who seem to be coping better than you (I bet you they are not!), and all of this will make you question your choice to become a CA (SA) - is it really worth it and do you have what it takes?

I have seen hundreds of students battle through their own UNISA studies journey, and the ones who make it are not the smartest, but the ones who are the most persistent. You need to let go of being a perfectionist and do your best every day - even when your best does not feel like it will be good enough.

Studying will be an epic fight for you, it will be an uphill struggle for much of the process, but if you persist until the end you will start to see the light and success will be in your reach. Studying a BCom and possibly your CA is not a sprint race, it is a marathon - prepare yourself!