With about 30 days left before the start of the 2020 Matric exams, the focus of Grade 12s is now firmly on the final preparation for this important milestone. But they should also take some time to finalise their Higher Education plans for next year, as the clock is ticking on closing dates for applications.
“Matrics cannot wait until they receive their results – currently scheduled for release on February 23 next year – before applying, as this will most likely mean they miss out on a space at their institution and for their qualification of choice as deadlines at many institutions are still in place,” says Peter Kriel, General Manager at The Independent Institute of Education, SA’s largest and most accredited private higher education institution.
“Beyond a later start to the higher education academic year it is still not clear what else higher education will need to do in response to COVID-19 in 2021, but so many lessons have been learned that most institutions are feeling confident about navigating the year ahead,” he says.
Kriel says the deadline for enrolments at many public and private institutions is only a month away, so Matrics should be investigating their options and send in their applications without delay.
“Particularly for full-time, contact undergraduate programmes, where there is much competition for a limited amount of space, prospective students need to make a commitment as soon as possible,” he says.
At some institutions and for some qualifications, such as diplomas or higher certificate programmes, applications may remain open for longer, but even for these programmes applications close when capacity is reached, he says.
Some institutions may also have late registration options, or allow registration right up until the start of the academic year, but it is best to secure one’s place timeously rather than gamble on space being available later.
“So use your study downtime to investigate prospective higher education institutions and courses that interest you. It’ll provide a welcome and interesting break from revision, while also serving as a motivation to do your best when you hit the books again. We all need to focus on the future,” he says.
Kriel says those students who don’t yet have a clear idea about what they want to study or where, should look at all the institutions that appeal to them, and then contact a student advisor on these campuses for guidance.
“It is particularly important to remember that historic pathways have been all but obliterated by the new world in which we now find ourselves,” he says.
“The COVID-19 and lockdown experiences served to realign our priorities and focus, and now, more than ever, it doesn’t make much sense to simply go study because of the perceived prestige of an institution or qualification. Prospective students should look at qualifications that make real-world sense and are geared towards getting them ready for a competitive and ever-evolving job market.
“And they need to identify those institutions where students were able to continue studying mostly uninterrupted during the lockdown, with the kind of support that ensured they could continue to deliver to their best ability,” he says.
Before settling on a qualification, students should ensure they have a clear idea of their envisioned academic path.
“What do you want to do after qualifying? Have you considered all the options by looking at the prospectuses of more than one higher education institution? Have you considered the track record of alumni from specific institutions, and the value a specific qualification has within an industry? These are all questions that you need to weigh up before signing up,” he says.
Kriel says prospective students may be surprised at the range of options available to them that they may never even have heard of before.
“The focus today should be on studying towards a work-focused, real-world qualification, and there is a large number of new and emerging careers from which to choose. So don’t wait and see when it comes to next year. The logistics will fall in place, but you need to make your move soon to ensure a smooth continuation of your educational journey in 2021.”