As the academic year concludes, Grade 12s nationwide are on the brink of making life-altering decisions about their future paths. The multitude of careers, tertiary qualifications and higher education institution options can induce overwhelming stress, emphasising the need for collaborative decision-making. In this crucial journey of tertiary applications, the guidance of parents, counsellors, and peers becomes pivotal to ensuring school leavers are making informed and confident choices.
According to the data provided by The South African Institute for Advancement (2021), South African universities are only able to accommodate 18% of matriculated students and out of that amount, a staggering 47% will drop out during their studies. Parents and advisors, therefore, play a huge role in supporting learners so that they not only get accepted but also fully complete their studies.
The Earlier the Better
The first hurdle learners often face is the delay in initiating the application process. As Atelisha Harilal, Head of Marketing and Student Recruitment at STADIO explains, waiting until after exam results are released may lead to missed opportunities as limited positions in high-demand programmes are quickly filled.
“The administrative complexity of the application process, coupled with the scarcity of positions in public higher education institutions in South Africa, underscores the importance of early planning,” she warns.
Parents play a pivotal role here, in guiding learners from an early stage. Harilal advises starting discussions around subject choices as early as grade 10. “Conversations about interests, skills, and future goals set the foundation for informed decisions. However, it is crucial that these discussions are honest and non-pressured as this will ensure learners enter Grade 11 with a well-defined plan and a variety of options,” she says.
Learners are advised to do thorough research on institutions such as STADIO which have a transparent application process and eliminate the confusion often found at other institutions.
Avoid Peer Influence and Misconceptions
Peers can also significantly impact application decisions, with learners’ choices often swayed based on which institutions their friends have chosen. However, this should never be the primary factor influencing decisions.
“It is important that learners and their parents understand the selection process as academic success alone usually does not guarantee acceptance. Parents need to educate themselves on various selection criteria, including specific subject requirements,” advises Harilal.
Those students who have not applied, or who have not been accepted to their first choice should not lose hope either. Harilal explains that public universities are not the be-all and end-all of tertiary studies and with the right parental support, these students too can find the right path for them.
Parents are encouraged to actively embark on their children’s academic journeys, at every stage, and encourage that all is not lost.Explore the institution’s website and help them consult with student advisors to help lead to positive, well-thought-out decisions, crucial for success in the life-shaping process of tertiary education choices. While involved parents are invaluable, Harilal again emphasises the importance of allowing pupils to find their own voices, as opposed to the voices of their parents or their peers, to ensure a higher chance of success.
Build a Supportive Community
Harilal believes in the proverbial ‘it takes a village’ approach. Encouraging knowledge sharing within communities empowers parents and learners to have critical conversations about career choices. Seeking advice from institutions offering free career guidance, attending open days, and interacting with academic teams are essential steps in making well-informed decisions.
“Seeking guidance from a student advisor can really help navigate the complex terrain of career choices. Student advisors possess up-to-date information about various industries, emerging trends, and the educational requirements for different careers. Their insights empower students to align their interests, skills, and goals with suitable academic and vocational options, ensuring a more targeted and successful career trajectory,” explains Harilal.
By encouraging knowledge sharing within communities, student advisors contribute to a supportive environment where parents can engage in critical conversations with their children, fostering a collaborative approach to educational and career planning. This collaborative effort ultimately enhances the likelihood of pupils making better-informed decisions that align with their aspirations and the demands of the ever-evolving job market.
As Benjamin Franklin famously said, ’By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’. A more proactive support network prepares learners to make well-informed decisions that both resonate with their aspirations and align with the fast-evolving job market demands. Offering a helping hand now also strengthens the foundations of their educational journey and reduces the risk of them dropping out of tertiary later.