Successful transitioning from high school to university remains a challenge for most students entering higher education. While the general first-year student population experiences challenges with transition, this can be acute for most Black students from poor home backgrounds. This qualitative study aims to determine how Black first-year students from poor home backgrounds navigate the transition to university and how their home and schooling experiences influence their trajectory to and through higher education. The paper uses a narrative approach to foreground the lived realities of six students from a university in the Free State Province of South Africa. Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory was used to broaden the theoretical base for understanding the transition into higher education. Qualitative data were collected through in-depth semi-structured individual interviews, and individual stories were constructed and analysed using the narrative approach. The findings unveiled factors in the layers of the ecosystem that may serve as enablers to transition and academic success. The paper argues for university academic and social support to acknowledge and embrace enablers to student transition and success as these would contribute to students experiencing a sense of belonging in the new education environment.
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