“My name is Matshepo … Mother of Hope”: Examining Hope amid the First-Year Experience

  • Henry Mason Research Psychologist and a Head of Department at the Directorate of Student Development and Support, Tshwane University of Technology


Student affairs practitioners have essential roles to play in assisting students in concretising a sense of hope. However, more research is needed to explore the role of hope amongst university students during the first-year experience. This article reports on a mixed methods study that explored hope in the context of the first-year experience. The quantitative phase of the study explored the relationships between hope, flourishing, psychological distress, and academic achievement amongst a sample of 296 first-year South African university students (mean age = 20.70, SD = 1.30, female = 63%).
Statistical analyses revealed significant relationships between the constructs assessed. Students who reported high scores on hope also obtained higher academic marks compared to participants who reported lower scores on the same construct. The qualitative phase of the study explored differences in
conceptions of hope between participants (N = 28, age-range 18‑22) who reported high versus low scores on a quantitative measure of hope. Two qualitative themes emerged, namely the trichotomy of hope, and hope-based generalised resistance resources. The findings indicate that students who present with high levels of hope may be more inclined to pursue academic goals and experience a sense of well‑being. Implications for student support are discussed, and the importance of promoting realistic hope amid the first-year experience is highlighted.