After 12 years of basic education, the matric class of 2021 is ready to start the journey towards their future as young adults.
Yet, out of the 700 604 candidates who wrote the national senior certificate examinations, only 240 000 will be admitted to the 26 public and private universities for the 2022 academic year.
Those who did not apply during 2021 will have a difficult time finding a place at a university.
And the quality of their results will also determine whether they will be admitted into a course of their choice, said the executive dean of the faculty of education at the University of Johannesburg, Professor Nadine Petersen.
“Applications will be closed for many universities so unless late applications are allowed, learners who have not registered may not be able to study in 2022. Most qualifications have many more students applying than can be accommodated, so often students do not get into qualifications of their choice,” Petersen said.
For a senior certificate pass, a learner is required to achieve a minimum of 40% in three subjects — one of which is an official language at home language level — and 30% in three subjects.
Learners who want to study at a university must achieve either a diploma or bachelor’s degree pass. A minimum pass of 40% is required in home language and three other subjects. A minimum of 30% must be obtained in two other subjects for a diploma pass while a bachelor’s pass requires a minimum of 40% in home language, at least 50% for four other higher credit subjects and at least 30% in two other subjects.
The corporate communications manager at Universities South Africa, Mateboho Green, said people still looking to find placement would need to do their own research on available options.
“They need to know what field of study they want to pursue; then find out which institutions offer that field; do desktop research of the faculties that offer that discipline to understand the requirements for that particular field of study, and also to understand what academic point /score average the institution requires, for admission into that faculty,” Green said.
“Each institution is different from the next, so it is important that school leavers understand the requirements of each university to decide which faculty they want to enrol at.”
People can also ask the department of higher learning about institutions that might still have space or they can register on its central application clearing house, which was set up to help them find out about universities, colleges and skills development programmes.
Those struggling to find something to do after matric can also wait for the new application cycle that starts in April to try to get admission in 2023, Green said.
Funding for further education is another area where people need to do research, Green said. Options include the department of higher learning’s National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), which is available for students at public universities and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges.
All South African students and beneficiaries of the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) support scheme qualify for NSFAS funding. Students whose combined household income is not more than R350 000 a year, people living with disabilities with a combined household income of not more than R600 000 a year and students who started studying before 2018 whose household income is not more than R122 000 a year are all eligible.
Although Universities South Africa does not offer funding for prospective students because it operates on membership fees collected from the 26 institutions, grants have been made available for some groups, Green said.
“These funds have so far been channelled towards students who are struggling to pay their fees and therefore face the possibility of not graduating, on account of their tuition debt,” she explained.
“These funds therefore go to the students whose annual family income is above the NSFAS qualifying threshold of a R350 000 annual income.”
Once a student has registered for a course of their choice and has probably moved from home, they need to stay on top of their studies. This has been made difficult by the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to a study published in the South African Journal of Psychology, 45.6% of students experienced anxiety while 35.0% experienced depression during the first three months of the pandemic in 2020. More than 5 070 students completed the online survey.
The lockdown imposed in response to the pandemic made it difficult for students to adjust academically and they were left feeling socially isolated, the study found.
Female students, those in their early years of study and students residing in informal settlements were most at risk of experiencing emotional difficulties, the research found.
Petersen recalls how she was one of the top students at matric, but struggled at university and even failed her first year. Pass marks from high school should not be equated to university progress, because the two systems are different, she said, adding: “I have seen many students who struggled at school and whose grade 12 results met the minimum requirements of a programme actually excel at university.”
“Class attendance, and prep is important. Set a daily schedule because the freedoms at varsity are different than at school and most importantly, ask for help when they need it,” Petersen said.
Universities have put measures in place to support first year students. The faculty of education at the University of Johannesburg has a year-long experience support group with senior tutors.
For some matriculants, the dream of attaining a university degree will not happen as planned and parents will be disappointed.
Life coach Yolanda Classen said matriculants who did not achieve the minimum requirements for further learning should be guided towards still celebrating how far they have come and realising that failing matric is a temporary thing.
“You are not your situations or the experiences you go through, so don’t make them your final destination. You have to feel in order for you to move on; don’t box compartmentalise. You have to deal with your feelings in order to decide what serves you and what doesn’t and move on.”
Taking a gap-year after school might seem like a good idea, but Classen believes the decision should be based on an individual’s needs and capabilities. Learners who did not qualify for a senior certificate should rather use the time to “gain work experience by applying for internships in various fields or in your field of study. Rewrite, apply if you qualify and better your result. Look for alternative short courses that would help you find your purpose or gain insight. There is no timeline on growth.”