CLOCK IS TICKING: How to decide what and where to study next year

It is not only the final exams currently giving the Class of 2015 headaches, but also the tough decision about next year’s studies. With application deadlines looming at higher education institutions around the country, many Matrics have not yet decided what, much less where, they are going to study come February 2016, an education expert says.

“This uncertainty causes a lot of anxiety to both learners and parents at a time when all their energy should be spent on preparing for final exams,” says Peter Kriel, Head of the Faculty of Business at The Independent Institute of Education, SA’s largest and most accredited private higher education institution.

He adds that not yet having a plan for further studies is likely to come with additional unforeseen consequences, as available spaces in a prospective student’s chosen field are quickly filling and chances of admission to programmes diminish.

“If you have not yet decided what you want to study or where you want to study, and have yet to complete an application form, your time is running out,” warns Kriel.

But he adds that there are a few ways to fast-track the decision-making process, to ensure that indecision and unnecessary delays don’t damage a learner’s prospects.

WHAT DO YOU SEE WHEN YOU IMAGINE YOUR IDEAL CAREER?

It may sound obvious, but the first thing you need to consider is what you see yourself doing after graduation, and what your ideal job would be, says Kriel.

“One of the biggest mistakes often made by prospective students is not considering what they actually want to be and do a decade from now, which results in them settling for educational opportunities and environments that are not suitable. This failure of vision more often than not results in academic failure, with tremendous financial impact and disappointment.”

Kriel acknowledges that it is rare for a Grade 12 learner to be 100% clear on this question.

“But you have to grapple with the various ideas for your future, and in doing so also take into account your choice of subjects at school, and your broad direction. For instance, do you want to go into business, education, law or science?”

DO BROAD RESEARCH

Once you have identified your field and options according to your current academic direction and performance, it is time to do some research, says Kriel.

“Investigate the kinds of qualifications which are likely to land you in your field. That will narrow down your list of available courses and institutions. Also be realistic in understanding that reaching your goal may require a building block approach,” says Kriel.

“You will not become the CEO of a large company with only an undergraduate degree. In fact, you may not even qualify to access an undergraduate degree, in which case you may have to do a relevant Higher Certificate first to give you access to a degree course. This reality is often overlooked by prospective students who take a spray and pray approach to applications”, says Kriel.

DO DETAILED RESEARCH

“At this stage in your decision-making process, it is time to identify all institutions of higher learning in the geographical area of your choice that offer the qualifications that interest you,” says Kriel.

“There is often a range of public universities and private higher education institutions from which you can select,” he notes.

Kriel says the easiest way of finding a list of available institutions as well as their accreditation and registration status, is to go to the website of the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and follow the Qualifications and Part Qualification link.

READY YOUR PAPERWORK AND FILE YOUR APPLICATION

Once you know what you want to study and where you are able to do so, you need to find out as much as possible regarding the courses and institutions, says Kriel.

“This includes application closing dates and institutionally specific entrance requirements, but also other aspects such as class sizes, and student and career support. It is recommended that you apply to all the institutions where you meet the criteria, to keep your options open.

“Make sure your application form and supporting documentation are in place. Very importantly, do no wait for your Matric certificate to apply. Your latest available results will suffice for at least conditional acceptance, and waiting for your final results could mean there are no spaces left in your course of choice.”

FOCUS WHERE YOU SHOULD BE FOCUSING

“Now that you know what you want to study to achieve your life-goals and have applied to institutions where this can be made possible, the final thing you must do is to concentrate on your current studies, especially if your latest available results were not as great as you would have liked them to be,” says Kriel.

“Because passing your Grade 12 exams as well as possible is arguably the most importance first step in realising your dreams for the future, and doing better than expected could open doors that you may, during your decision-making process, have considered closed,” he says.