AS the matric Class of 2018 settle into their final year of school and get to grips with the challenges of the year ahead, an education expert says they need to start thinking about their plans for next year sooner, rather than later.
‘Options available in terms of tertiary institutions, fields and qualifications today are much wider than ever before,’ says Tammy Oppenheim of The Independent Institute of Education.
Despite this, prospective students often still don’t investigate the full array of what is on offer, opting at the last minute for a traditional three-year degree at a public institution.
‘This is why we urge the class of 2018 to start investigating and considering the pros and cons of various qualifications and institutions right away, so that when the time comes, they opt for the route which is most likely to see them succeed in a field which really excites them,’ she says.
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Oppenheim says that when narrowing down their options, students should take into account:
Field of study
Offerings differ across and between public universities and private institutions, so find an institution that specialises in your chosen field of work or that has a faculty or department with a significant reputation in the industry you have chosen.
Studying with a niche institution if you are targeting a niche industry may be a smart way to show that you understand that industry.
Do your research and ensure that you are choosing an accredited institution that has a good reputation in the field.
Find the institution that offers a qualification that speaks directly to your ambitions.
Qualifications are not always named after the field they are supporting, so you should look in some depth at the actual curriculum.
This is easily available on most websites or from the institution.
There are costs associated with studying beyond fees, and it would not make sense to have your dream scuppered because you can’t sustain the cost of a residence or transport.
Be realistic about what is achievable and give yourself breathing room to focus on your studies.
That said, spend some time researching bursaries and payment options and do your math – a cost-benefit analysis of your study options will also help you make peace with whatever decision you make.
An often ignored fact is the graduation rate at an institution.
If most students do not graduate in minimum time (three years for degrees for instance), then lower fees are not a real saving as you might need to pay for an extra year.
Many institutions have a long heritage and history. Perhaps one of your parents is an alumnus at the university you always imagined attending.
But remember that while tradition is important, it is more important for your future employability to find an institution that has kept pace with the changing requirements of the working world.
On the other hand, perhaps you know you need to study in a free and creative environment.
To determine the best fit for you, spend some time talking to past and current students at your earmarked institutions.
If you are an avid athlete or have a niche hobby or interest, you may want to make sure that your studies are located in an environment that facilitates this.
Just make sure that you are not basing your entire future on a sport or hobby alone.
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