Journal of Student Affairs in Africa

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Stress-Management Strategies among First-Year Students at a South African University: A Qualitative Study

Henry D. Mason


This article reports on a qualitative study that explored the use of coping strategies among first-year students in managing academic-related stressors. Qualitative data were collected using a non-probability and purposive sample. A total of 225 first-year students who were registered at a South African university participated in the study by writing naïve sketches. A narrative framework was adopted and data were analysed using thematic analysis. Six categories of stressors emerged from the data and were categorised as financial, spiritual, physical, emotional, mental and institutional. The qualitative findings also pointed to three prominent coping strategies, namely problem-focused coping, emotion-focused coping and meaning-making. The reported outcomes of employing coping strategies included both positive and negative aspects. An overarching theme, entitled ‘hanging in there’ was interpreted from the data and points to an innate sense of hope that assists participants in managing stressors. Implications for student affairs practitioners and areas for further study are discussed.

Keywords academic stress; coping; meaning; psychological stress; qualitative research
AJOL African Journals Online