Help me beat the varsity blues!

I completed my school education outside South Africa. Can I still register for a bachelor degree?

Yes, you can. You’ll need to apply for a certificate of conditional matric exemption to the Matriculation Board, which will evaluate your school qualification. Visit the Higher Education Enrolment Services Programme.

When do undergraduate applications close for most South African universities?

They usually close at the end of September, the year before you intend going to study. But some close as early as June or July. So apply in good time! You can often apply online to avoid queues and red tape, but sometimes your documentation must be submitted in person or via courier.

What results do I need to submit when applying?

You must submit a certified copy of your final Grade 11 results, as well as your Grade 12 interim/prelim results. You’ll also need to pay a non-refundable application fee of between R50 and R300 per university you apply to.

I haven’t a clue what to study. Help!

Choosing what to study is a huge decision and shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. Ask yourself a few key questions:

  • What are your values and ambitions? What things are important to you?
  • What are you good at? Are you academically or practically inclined? Should you opt for a vocation-based diploma rather than a theory-oriented degree?
  • Why do you want to work – for money, for personal fulfillment, for the challenge, to serve others, to create something?
  • Think back to a task or project you really enjoyed. What did you like most; what motivated you?
  • Will the career you’re thinking of suit the sort of lifestyle you want? For example, will it involve irregular hours, a lot of travelling away from your family, or excessive pressure?
  • Check job adverts. Will the salary be suitable for your needs? Is there a demand for the type of career you’re considering?
  • Do you meet the entry requirements? If not, can you improve your marks and reapply?
  • For how many years are you prepared to study? And can you afford it?
  • Are you prepared to opt for part-time or distance-learning options, or must it be on-site learning? You can also speak to a career guidance counsellor at your school or the institution where you want to study, or pay to consult a professional counsellor who may give you a vocational aptitude test.

How can I improve my matric marks to get into a particular degree course?

Go back to the school where you wrote your matric and re-register to take those subjects. You can also redo certain subjects through a college – it’s even possible to rewrite subjects via correspondence or distance learning. An alternative is to ask your district or regional education department office about writing a supplementary exam. Contact your school, the Matriculation Board, Umalusi or the Department of Higher Education and Training for a list of accredited colleges.

What is Recognition of Prior Learning?

Recognition of Prior Learning (or RPL) is when a tertiary institution accepts you into a field of study based on your experience and/or qualifications. This includes both formal education (certificate, diploma or degree) and informal learning (including relevant workplace experience and community work).

Approach Universities South Africa or a university with a copy of your matric certificate and details of your work experience. They will evaluate your application before issuing you with a certificate that recognises your prior learning.

I want to first work and save money, and then go and study. But I didn’t get a matric exemption. Will I be able to enrol at a university?

Yes. If you are 23 and older, you are regarded as a “mature student” and can apply for a conditional matric exemption certificate. Many academic institutions will accept you even if your original matric marks prevented you from studying at the time.