Some of them did not perform to the best of their ability and achieved lower than expected marks which will impact on their further study options. Many others have failed outright and need to make a choice about repeating the year or leaving school without a Matric certificate, facing an even more uncertain future.
But these students have more choices than simply downgrading their study choice, hitting the job market because they don't qualify for studies anymore, or accepting the tenuous position of not having completed formal schooling, an education expert says.
"This is a difficult time for students who didn't perform optimally in their final exams," says Chris van Niekerk, Managing Director for Abbotts College High Schools.
"While students and their parents come to terms with the situation, it is important to remember that they have a wonderful opportunity right now – that of first hitting pause on their initial plans, and then taking a year out to focus on achieving a Matric they can be proud of, and which sets them up for a more successful future.
"Whether this means redoing Matric entirely, or focusing on getting to grips with challenging subjects and redoing those exams only, this option provides a lifeline towards a more solid foundation," Van Niekerk says.
Of course, it is difficult for students to return to their own school to repeat their final year among younger peers. And while distance or online learning are also options, they are not for everyone, and particularly not for those students who already struggled last year and will require specialised support and attention to ensure they achieve success on their second attempt.
This is where schools such as Abbotts College, which assist students to achieve academic success in a non-traditional school environment geared towards belonging and inclusion of all comes in, Van Niekerk notes.
At Abbotts College, for instance, students can continue learning in a non-traditional environment. Students also have access to after hour teacher assistance and study clinics, and regular feedback in the form of 7 report cards throughout the academic year also assist students to continue to track and improve on their academics. Additionally, because of the Abbotts College High School ethos of focusing on academic success and not matters such as uniforms or hairstyles, students won't feel like they are "returning to school" in the traditional sense, which is often an inhibiting factor in the decision to repeat Matric.
"Parents of students who didn't do as well as hoped last year, must guide them during this challenging and pivotal period," says Van Niekerk.
"It is normal to feel helpless and even hopeless faced with an uncertain future and with Plan A having been taken off the table. So, it is important to work through emotions, but then also to start re-strategising and reinforcing the reality that this is a temporary setback which doesn't have to impact the rest of the student's life.
"Education is always a work in progress, and taking a year out to get back on track on the road to success and personal empowerment can be a watershed event for a young person which will positively impact them for the rest of their lives."
Finding the right environment, however, is key to ensure that the mistakes and missteps that led to the underperformance are not repeated.
"So be sure to find a school which has a proven track record of being able to provide the right kind of support that will turn the student's disappointment into enthusiasm for the future once more. Ensure that the student will be treated as a capable individual, allowed to express themselves in a supportive and respectful milieu. And ensure that the right academic support and processes are in place so that students can work towards gradual and continued improvement, with regular feedback so that they can address academic challenges early on before they escalate or spiral out of control."