When To Start Applying To Study At College Next Year

Don't waste time during the June/July holidays. This is the perfect opportunity for you - matriculants to investigate the higher education options for next year.

Is it too late to apply to college?

The June/July holidays provide the perfect opportunity for matriculants to investigate their higher education options for next year, and get their applications in before the avalanche of enrolment forms hit administrators’ desks later in the year, an education expert says.

Nola Payne, Head of Faculty: Information Technology at The Independent Institute of Education, says there are huge benefits in applying early, not least of them being able to put this stressful endeavour behind you and focus on the very important upcoming exams, as well as knowing early on if you need to improve your results or reconsider your options.

“Applications for acceptance into higher education have now opened, and applying early means that these applicants will soon know whether they’re accepted or not.

If not, they can widen their search and still have time to consider their options.

There’s also not that last minute scramble for an opening in a high demand course, where applications are closed once the courses are full.”

Payne notes that Grade 11 final results are used for provisional acceptance, and if matrics apply now it means they will be able to focus on their exams without further worries about next year.

But many learners will not yet know where or even what they want to study, and Payne says it is particularly important for these learners to spend their holidays productively by investigating their options.

Leaving the matter and hoping for some flash of inspiration to bring clarity later in the year will lead to anxiety and analysis paralysis when you can least afford it, she says.

“Later this year, all your focus and emotional energy should go toward dealing with your exams, not toward worrying about whether and where you will study, and if you will qualify and secure a place,” she says.

Payne says that in making their decision about what and where to study next year, learners should ensure they do proper research beyond merely what they have encountered in school information sessions.

The internet is a great tool to investigate all the various options, including whether to go public or private, to interrogate the wide range of qualifications which match one’s interests, and to consider employment prospects and support services at an institution.

“Choosing one’s higher education direction is not a one size fits all decision, and definitely not a decision that should be based on what everyone else is doing,” Payne says.

She adds that in today’s tough job market, it is also crucially important that when graduates apply for a position, their CV and experience make them stand out from the crowd, by demonstrating a good academic track record from a respected institution, as well as showing that they have already applied themselves in their chosen field.

A purely theoretical higher education is going to make it very hard to bridge the gap between studies and the world of work, she says.

“Previous generations had a much narrower choice about what and where they wanted to study.

These days, one’s options are so much wider and exciting, and many institutions offer qualifications geared specifically to making you ready to hit the ground running once you enter the workplace.

Not only do they add this work ready focus to most conventional study areas, but you are also able to access niche options not available elsewhere.”

Faced with the baffling choice of post-matric institutions available, Payne says the following needs to be understood:

1) There are two key institutional types available to prospective students:

  • a) Public institutions(subsidised by the state)
  • b) Private institutions (no state subsidy)


2) Both the public and private sectors also host two different kinds of institutions:

a) Further Education and Training (FET) Colleges

Qualifications are linked to a specific range of jobs or employment possibilities, for instance from beauty therapy through plumbing to IT and business studies

Currently qualifications normally go no higher than NQF level 4, and are not part of an academic route leading to higher education

b) Higher education institutions

Qualifications such as degrees, certificates and diplomas from NQF 5 to 10

Only public institutions are allowed call themselves universities in South Africa - Private higher education institutions can offer the exact same range of qualifications up to doctoral degree level, but may not use the term “university” even though private and public higher education institutions are subject to the same regulation and quality assurance

“If you do your research thoroughly and timeously, you will be able to identify exactly what makes your heart beat faster, and to apply early enough to ensure you don’t waste time and money on studying something or somewhere that doesn't resonate with you.”

Click here for a list of colleges and universities in South Africa.


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