Grit & Resilience - Coping With Matric Results


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Matric is a major rite of passage for South African children. Thirteen wide-ranging and diverse years of school are suddenly distilled into one, all-important National Senior Certificate. Pass/Fail. With or without university exemption.

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Getting Matric results is a sudden contraction and a drastic reduction of everything school has been to you that can feel quite brutal, especially when you don’t get the results you hoped for. 

Parents, teachers and learners commonly regard Matric as the high-stakes ticket to one’s future. Get a good Matric, and you’ll go far.  But if your Matric turns out to be a misstep, then you face untold struggles.

You have been warned about the severe lack of opportunities. You have a strong sense that you will stare failure in the face, perhaps for your lifetime. 

It’s no wonder that every year, waiting for Matric results takes such a heavy toll on teen and family mental well-being.

According to Counselling Psychologist, Dr Lauren Martin, who is also the Deputy Dean at SACAP (the South African College of Applied Psychology) waiting for Matric results and processing them when they are published in January is a rich opportunity for parents to model and support the development of grit and resilience. 

She says, “Parents may need to do some reflection on their assumptions and attitudes to effectively support their teen over this time. If you have heavily invested in the idea that the Matric certificate shapes everything going forward, then you might be adding stress. 

The exams are done, and what we need to be focused on is moving forward. It’s important to know that there is not one person whose entire future was defined by their Matric marks. It’s true that Matric results may shape the opportunities you can access. 

You will need a Matric with a Bachelor’s pass for university studies, and you may need a minimum percentage in certain subjects to find a place on certain educational programs. Falling short in these requirements can feel devastating, and therefore it’s important to shift the focus to looking more broadly at choices and considering other pathways. 

This flexibility is so important because we want to avoid the rigidity in thinking and fear of shame or punishment that can lead to our teens leaning towards drastic measures in the face of disappointing Matric results.”

It can help for parents to be aware of the alternative pathways. For instance, it is possible for learners who failed a maximum of two Matric subjects to apply to sit for supplementary exams. 

There is also a matric upgrade process for learners who passed subjects but didn’t get the marks they needed.  Accredited Higher Certificate education programs are an effective route for learners who did not achieve a Bachelor’s pass. 

These are typically one-year courses that can improve a student’s readiness for tertiary education, make up for a matric without a Bachelor’s pass and enhance critical skills for success not only in their upcoming studies but in their future work lives. 

SACAP’s Academic Dean, Dr Jaclyn Lotter says, “Open communication with your teen is key during this tense period of waiting for, and then receiving Matric results. It’s important to create a safe space for your child to express their thoughts and feelings, and to listen with full attention and without judgement. 

You may find it necessary to help manage expectations. It’s natural for teens to have high expectations of themselves, however some may be fearful, pessimistic and anxious. 

It's important to emphasize that success is not solely defined by academic achievement, to discuss different pathways to success and shed light on the fact that there are numerous routes to achieving goals in life. 

We develop vital life skills during times when everything doesn’t go our way. We learn perseverance and use problem-solving skills, and we increase our capacity to be resilient and agile. Parents can help to encourage the exploration of other options and provide reassurance that one setback doesn’t define their child’s future.”

Pathways such as SACAP’s accredited Higher Certificate programs can very well be the conduit to real and long-lasting success in life in that they help to build self-awareness, key interpersonal skills, and provide a solid grounding in work-related skills.  

In 2024, SACAP offers three one-year, Higher Certificate programs set in an Applied Psychology framework that are available online or on-campus:

  • The Higher Certificate in Counselling and Communication Skills offers practical, work-related skills training that is relevant to students interested in people-centred careers across all sectors from business to education and health sciences.
  • The Higher Certificate in Business Management is vocational training program that is a stepping stone into either further tertiary studies or an entry-level position in business fields.
  • The Higher Certificate in Human Resources Management is similarly focused on work readiness for junior positions while also focused on industry-oriented content that can serve as bridge to further studies.

Dr Martin concludes, “The key features of SACAP’s Higher Certificate qualifications is that they offer essential industry-specific knowledge as well as insight into human behaviour and a better understanding of people. This empowers young people to develop their capacities for self-management and self-mastery, which are abilities that are highly valued in the modern world of work.”

To apply at SACAP, visit

Teens and parents in crisis can contact:

SADAG (South African Depression and Anxiety Group) - Chat online with a counsellor 7 days a week from 9am - 4pm via the Cipla WhatsApp Chat Line 076 882 2775. SMS 31393 or 32312 and a counsellor will call you back – available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.

The Counselling Hub - Book a session:  021 462 3902 or   067 235 0019 or Email:

LifeLine South Africa – 24 hours / 7 days per week National Counselling Line 0861-322-322

Suggested Article:

matric learners

Over 900,000 South African matriculants are currently writing their final National Senior Certificate exams, but according to the Council of Higher Education, more than half of these accomplished high school graduates won’t pursue higher education immediately after getting their results.

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