How To Assess Higher Education Options In South Africa



School-leavers wishing to pursue a tertiary education are faced with numerous choices and it can be difficult to know where to start.



Atelisha Harilal, Head of Student Recruitment and Marketing at JSE-listed higher education provider, STADIO, says there’s already huge pressure on matriculants to achieve good results for their final exams. Selecting ‘the right’ higher education path can feel like an added burden.

Her advice to parents and students when embarking on the application process for tertiary education institutions is “apply early and apply a lot”.

Don’t wait; identify options

“We see many families procrastinating with applications,” she says. “We advise starting to apply for universities and colleges in around April of the year you do Matric, but many families will decide to wait for the June results. If those don’t go so well, they wait for prelims, and then maybe for finals. But it’s unfortunately a game of numbers. There are only so many places available to study, and a high demand. If you wait too long, you risk losing out on a place.”

However, if you have missed the applications for the start of the next year, Harilal says many institutions also offer a mid-year intake, so it’s important to keep trying. She also advises having more than one option in mind, and applying at several institutions.

“People often start to assess their choices by asking, ‘What course do I want to study?’ but it might be more helpful to ask, ‘What do I want to be? What do I see myself doing? What am I good at and passionate about?’ You could start with thinking about whether you want to work in an office or not. Do you want to be part of a team or do you want to run your own business? If you’re passionate about maths or the creative arts, what do you imagine your first job would be? These sorts of questions help you to identify the types of courses you might want to do. And then it’s important to identify all the institutions that offer those qualifications,” she says. “Apply not just for your first choice, but your second and at least your third too.”

Respond early and use the resources available

Harilal says another error applicants often make is waiting to respond to institutions after being offered a placement. “If you get a letter offering you acceptance, respond early to secure your place,” she urges. “Not only will this ensure the institution keeps the spot for you, but it allows you to worry about one less thing while focusing on exams, enjoying your year-end holidays, and waiting for your results.”

If students are unsure about the application process, entry requirements or what they want to study, most higher education institutions have free resources available to help. “STADIO has a team of student advisors whose job it is to assist students with identifying their preferred career path,” says Harilal. “We encourage students to visit the institutions they are considering, if at all possible, and to attend open days along with their parents, where they can ask questions, meet faculty and get a sense of the place and the people.”

Explore all options

Harilal suggests that students explore all the options available to them for tertiary education – not only the institutions they already know about – public universities and private colleges.

“There’s a weird dichotomy in South Africa where people tend to view private schooling as a quality education, but not a private tertiary qualification,” she says. “Private institutions are subject to the same stringent regulations as public universities and must be registered and accredited with the same education authorities and governing bodies.”

Furthermore, there are certain advantages to private institutions. For example, STADIO offers a variety of specialist offerings, such as fashion, not on offer at many universities, and also focuses on workplace integration and innovation to ensure graduates don’t only achieve an accreditation, but are deemed employable too.

“We work to ensure our qualifications are future-proof, and our success metric is our reputation within industry for turning out graduates with the workplace skills they need,” she says. “We have industry boards where members of the industry give commentary and review our learning material. We have extensive work-integrated learning programmes throughout all our qualifications.”

Many private institutions also offer flexible learning models, from contact learning to distance learning and hybrid offerings. 

“I urge students to explore all their options when embarking on their tertiary studies,” says Harilal. “Not every student is the same, but today there is something for every type of student.”






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