Are you ready to kickstart your journey towards higher education and crush your university applications? Whether you’re the first in your family to consider university or seek guidance, fear not because we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll dive into all the practical tips and resources you need to prepare for university applications like a boss. From choosing the perfect school to securing financial aid, we’ve got everything you need to know. Plus, we’ll even explore some alternative paths to traditional university education. So, sit back, relax, and get ready to ace those applications like the superstar you are! 

Let’s be honest; applying to university can be daunting, especially when navigating it alone. This can create anxiety and uncertainty, which can be overwhelming for you. That’s why we’re here to help you every step of the way. With our guidance, you will understand the application requirements, process, and timeline for submitting applications. We’ll ensure you understand all the requirements, help you select the perfect courses, and guide you through each step of the application process. So, get ready to achieve your dreams and reach for the stars because we’re here to help you make it happen! 

Here are some practical tips to help you prepare for university applications:

  1. How do I choose a school? It would be best to consider factors such as the institution’s reputation, the course’s quality, the location, and the cost of tuition and living expenses. Fundi Connect is an online platform that provides career guidance resources like a career quiz to help you determine your best-suited job and information on higher education in South Africa. The platform includes information on courses, universities, and financial aid. You can use the platform to search for courses and universities that fit your interests, academic abilities, and financial circumstances. Visit Fundi Connect here 
  2. Application fees? Many universities and colleges in South Africa charge an application fee, but others don’t. The cost can vary depending on the institution but typically ranges from R100 to R400. You should check the application fees for the institutions you want to apply to and budget accordingly. You should also be aware that the fee is non-refundable, so you can’t claim it back if you don’t get into the university. There are some universities/colleges that offer free applications, for example, the University of Johannesburg (UJ), North-West University, University of the Free State, Sol Plaatje University, Central University of Technology, Nelson Mandela University, University of Limpopo and the University of the Western Cape.
  3. What else is needed for applications? A valid email address, a reliable cellphone number, two scans of your identity document (it is recommended to submit colour copies of your ID. This is because colour copies are generally considered more accurate and legible than black and white copies), your grade 11 final report or Matric results if you have already matriculated.
  4. What options are available for paying fees? Several options are available, including NSFAS, scholarships, and student loans. You must pay for tuition, textbooks, transport, food, toiletries, extramural activities, printing and even accommodation if you are far from home.
    1. National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS): NSFAS provides loans and bursaries to eligible South African students studying at a public university or TVET college. The funding covers tuition fees, accommodation, and living expenses. You can apply for funding through the NSFAS website: here
    2. Scholarship opportunities: There are several scholarship opportunities available to South African students, including the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust, and the Canon Collins Trust. You can search for scholarship opportunities through the Scholarship Portal South Africa website: here
    3. Student loans: Banks and financial institutions in South Africa offer student loans to help students cover the cost of their education. You can apply for a student loan through their bank or financial institution. Some major South African banks that offer student loans include Absa, FNB, Nedbank, and Standard Bank.

Let’s talk about alternatives! While university may be the most conventional path to higher education, other options exist. If you don’t get accepted into a university or prefer a different path, there are plenty of alternatives to consider. Here are just a few:

  • TVET Colleges: These are technical and vocational education and training colleges that offer a range of practical courses in fields like engineering, business, and hospitality. They’re an excellent option for students who prefer a hands-on approach to learning and are often more affordable than universities, with many offering scholarships. Apprenticeships: Apprenticeships provide on-the-job training in a skilled trade, such as plumbing, electrical work, or carpentry. They offer a fantastic opportunity to gain practical experience and learn from seasoned professionals. Apprenticeships typically last 2-4 years.
  • Entrepreneurship: Starting a business is a viable alternative to university, particularly for those with an entrepreneurial spirit. Young South Africans can start their businesses and gain practical experience in marketing, finance, and management.
  • Online learning: With the rise of e-learning platforms, you can now study from home. Online courses are available in various subjects, from computer programming to creative writing, and are often more affordable than traditional university courses.

I want to remind you that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to university applications. It’s essential to take the time to research different schools, programs, and financial aid options to find the best fit for your interests, academic abilities, and financial circumstances. And if you do face any obstacles or challenges along the way, don’t hesitate to reach out to the university you are applying to, financial aid offices, or available mentorship programs for support.

For those who have already navigated the university application process, what advice would you offer to other young South Africans just starting? How did you stay organised and focused during the application process, and what resources or strategies did you find most helpful? Your insights could make a massive difference to other students working hard to achieve their dreams of higher education.

Tell us: As you prepare for university applications, what steps are you taking to get ready? What strategies or resources have you found helpful in researching potential schools and programmes?

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