Study Destinations Series
After twelve years of basic education schooling, the Matric class of 2019 will sit for their National Senior Certificate (NSC) through the various examining authorities in South Africa. After the announcement of the matric results in January 2020, those who have successfully passed their National Senior Certificate will be faced with the daunting task of migrating from their home towns and provinces to student cities of their choice to pursue their tertiary education.
Considering that most of them have spent their primary and secondary education within their neighbourhoods, this migration is a life-changing experience for the majority of first generation university first year students.
The prospect for success in the transitional year for most first time students depends largely on the combined choice of a great university and university town. With many universities having a limited capacity of on-campus student accommodation, many first year students have to grapple with the challenges of living off-campus in a foreign village, town or city and being a commuter student. It is often the latter experience that contributes to almost 40% of first years, failing or dropping out in their first year, according to a research conducted by the Human Science and Research Council in 2007.
In my 20 years as a Student Affairs professional at various universities, nothing used to break my heart than the knowledge that after the sheer resilience of a twelve year journey from Grade 1 to Grade 12, that even the brightest of first year students would face the prospect of failing or even worse, dropping out of university (or college) in their first year. Mainly due to the lack of school or parental counsel to guide the learner to making informed choices for their tertiary education, or the learner himself or herself making uninformed choices based on little information or peer pressure. What then are the factors to be considered – by both parents and first years – when making these life-changing choices towards your next study destination?
Choose the right career path: It is important to go through professional career counselling to assist you with determining your career choice. If you did not apply for the career of your choice in time, rather take a gap year and enrol for the career that is part of your passion, than to take any available study space offered. Failing while doing a course out of expediency will mess up your academic record and spoil the prospect of financial aid in the future. Most of the first year students fail their first year studies simply because of a wrong career choice.
Study in your town or your province: Many learners are fortunate to be living in a college or university town where they can study even without leaving the comfort of their homes. For instance, matric students from the City of Tshwane has a choice of pursuing their studies at either Tshwane North or Tshwane South TVET colleges which both have a capacity to enrol 25,000 students each. The other big advantage with TNC and TSC is that these colleges have community-based campuses in Attridgeville (TSC), Ga-Rankuwa (TSC) Mamelodi (TNC), Soshanguve (TNC) and Temba (TNC).
Additionally the City of Tshwane has four public universities namely University of Pretoria (60,000 capacity), Tshwane University of Technology (60,000), Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (5,000) and the University of South Africa (325,000 capacity). With exception of UNISA, the three public universities also have community-based campuses in Garankuwa (TUT, SMU), Mamelodi (UP) and Soshanguve (TUT). This means that matric students from the City of Tshwane are spoilt for choice with access to quality and reputable tertiary studies right at their doorstep.
The question is, why go and study outside the City of Tshwane when the city has about 500,000 spaces for you? Or why study outside the Gauteng Province when the province have 8 TVET Colleges and 8 universities with about 800,000 spaces for your studies?
Besides, commuting to college or university using own or public transport is most of the time more affordable than living in a private student accommodation. Food security is often guaranteed when living at home, and provides for more disposable income from your parents or bursar for you to live a quality of life. The option of living and studying under parental guidance also limits deviant behaviour and social distractions that might derail your life, especially in the first year.
Studying out of town or province: Studying out of your town or province should really be the last option, if you do not live within a college or university town. Even so, rather choose an alternative college or university not far from your town due to the high cost of distant travel. If not fortunate to live on campus, conduct thorough research and make informed choices about the private accommodation arrangements and the area you live in within the college or university town. Also make a choice about the student city you wish to study and live in, and whether it is affordable, safe and liveable. Ease of travel and access to facilities such as WIFI and libraries might impact on your potential success as a student.
Be involved, be engaged: Continue being involved with your extra-curricular activities that you were involved with before college or university. Whether be it sport or arts, cultural or spiritual activities, continue to be involved with your outside-the-classroom activities and programs as part of your social life at college or universities. Extra-curricular activities are part of your total educational experience and provide you an opportunity to develop skills and competencies such as communication, leadership and wellness.
Live a healthy lifestyle: Adopting a quality and healthy lifestyle is one of the choices that will accelerate your success in the minimum required time. Many student cities provides for a vibrant life of leisure and night life that provides for easy access to drugs and alcohol. On the other hand there are safer spaces of leisure that provides for healthy recreation through movies, theatre and sport activities that are educational purposeful.