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How to fly in first year – tips from second years

by 5 Mar 2020Culture

Your first year at the Creative Academy is a stimulating ride, but it can also be a real adjustment. Focus on these aspects to make the most of your creative journey.

There’s no doubt about it, the Creative Academy is a world removed from school. To help you step into life as a creative student, we quizzed your predecessors. Here they reveal what they wish they had known before starting their first year at the Creative Academy.

From coping with the work load to where to get coffee, these are the answers to some of your burning questions. 


The jump between high school and tertiary studies is vast, and first year at the Creative Academy is no exception. Prepare yourself for hard work, stacks of reading and being challenged on every level – intellectually, creatively and emotionally. It’s a steep learning curve, but one that will stretch your imaginative muscle and develop your abilities in exciting new ways. Our advice? Put in the hours, colour outside the lines and relish each challenge as it comes!

What students say:

“Learn Photoshop and Illustrator properly. They will be used a lot and you need to make sure you practise often so that you don’t forget everything in a month or two.”

“It’s worth it to spend a little extra time on practising things you learned in lessons so that you can apply them in assignments.”

“Don’t let assignments build up. Rather do them and get them out of the way as soon as possible!”

“Whatever you do, don’t not take notes in class.”

Group work

Collaboration is a critical component of studies at the Creative Academy and a valuable preview of agency life. Students who embrace teamwork as a lesson in effective communication and relationship-building will reap the benefits both personally and academically. A well-executed group project makes for an enriched learning experience and equips you with the interpersonal skills needed to thrive in the professional world.

What students say:

“When it comes to group work it’s important to delegate properly and follow up to ensure everyone is doing their part.”

“Be prepared to compromise.”

“We are all confident creatives and should learn to step back sometimes and listen to the ideas of others!”

Time management

Deadlines are part and parcel of creative work, so the sooner you begin to see eye-to-eye with the ticking clock, the better. It’s crucial to build productive habits early on as the workload only intensifies as you move into second and third year. Sort your high-priority tasks from those that can wait, and don’t be afraid to tackle the daunting stuff first. It’s easy to misjudge the scope of a project and the amount of time it takes to complete it. By budgeting more time than you think you need, you create some wiggle room in case you run over.

What students say:

“This year I shot myself in the foot by leaving everything to the last minute.”

“I didn’t realise I would be spending so much time on reading and research.”

“Contextual Studies readings are intense, and it takes a lot longer than a day or two to complete a research assignment. Start EARLY!”


Although tertiary education is an exciting chapter in your life, the added pressure takes getting used to. Ensure you have coping mechanisms and a solid support structure in place to see you through times of stress. Remember to take breaks, check in with loved ones and confide in your lecturers if you need a helping hand.

What students say:

“Be balanced. Do your work but also focus on balancing social life and mental health.”

“I regret not speaking up sooner when needing more support from the Creative Academy. College became my ‘safe haven’ and I should have asked for help earlier!”

“I always take breaks or go on walks to clear my head.”

“When feeling overwhelmed, I coped by sitting on the balcony with my fellow classmates.”


Cape Town is a global design hotspot and Woodstock is its creative heartbeat. Whether you’re new to the area or a long-time local, you’ll never be short on inspiration or ways to fill the time. Make the most of your time here by soaking up the culture and natural surroundings and taking part in the various events on offer.

What students say:

If you’re new to Cape Town, definitely check out Zeitz MOCAA.”

“Make sure you go to the Saturday market at the Biscuit Mill before the year is over.”

“Nature lovers should visit Kirstenbosch Gardens.”

“First Thursdays on Bree street is a must.”

Creative fuel

Behind every creative is a strong cup of coffee and a tasty meal to get the juices flowing. Fortunately, our location is just steps away from world-class coffee spots, lunch hangouts and snack suppliers. What’s more, the Creative Academy has its own cafeteria to keep you satisfied and on the go.

What students say:

“Every first year needs to experience Albert’s Eatery chicken mayo sandwiches and Redemption chips before the year is over.”

“A coffee from Distiller’s Union and a sandwich from Redemption is the best combination.”


Money, parking, the weather… It’s easy to push practical considerations to the back of your mind when you’re caught up in the excitement of starting your degree. But take it from those who have been here a while: how you manage the peripheral stuff can make or break your day. A little planning goes a long way!

What students say:

“When it comes to Cape Town weather, pack for four seasons in one day!”

“Get an Uber or join a carpool.”

“I wish I had budgeted for the sheer amount of coffee I drank.”

“Now that I’ve been here a while, I see that we will spend a lot of money on materials.”

Note: We strongly advise all incoming students to consult the Additional Expenses list for an estimation of costs. 

The highlights 

First year is unique in that you’re given room to explore a variety of creative disciplines before settling on a major. With so much flexibility, there’s truly no better time to broaden your mind and explore different avenues of expression. In addition to flexibility, students have an array of exciting projects and exhibitions to look forward to throughout the year, not to mention the opportunity to build valuable connections and gain insights from industry experts. 

What students say:

“Incoming students should be really excited about learning new techniques, skills and meeting loads of awesome people. And designing your own app and website!”

“Get excited about mid-week lectures and Contemporary Art exhibitions.”

“Every first year needs to experience getting out of their comfort zone and experiencing new things with classmates from different parts of South Africa and the world. Branch out as much as you can!”

“Don’t be afraid to explore new mediums, styles and techniques. You’ll be surprised at what you are good at and enjoy.”

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