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Helping your matriculant choose a higher education

Across South Africa, thousands of successful matriculants are about to embark on a new and

vital stage of their educational journey. It’s widely recognised that gaining some kind of tertiary

education enhances young people’s opportunities to find fulfilling work and meet their future

career and life goals. A 2021 survey conducted by SACAP (The South African College of

Applied Psychology) amongst almost 1000 parents who are members of the popular The Village

parenting community on Facebook, found that 83% of the parents of high school learners

believe that tertiary education would improve their child’s employability.

The decisions around what to study and where to study are serious ones for a family. Factors

such as accreditation, costs, quality, closeness to home and safety are always important

concerns for parents. However, our pandemic experience over the past two years has raised

other issues for parents and students needing to make tertiary education decisions in the next

few months. Janine Kendall, Counselling Psychologist and SACAP’s Head of Teaching and

Learning: Education Recruitment says, “What came out of our research is that parents are

uncertain and concerned for their children’s tertiary education journey as a result of the

pandemic and general environmental challenges.  Parents and guardians want to be confident

that the tertiary institution they select with their matriculants, delivers on robust academic quality

with practical skills, provides a safe environment and offers the support to nurture students in

uncharted waters. As they have closely supported their high school learners through

disruptions, lockdowns and threats of illness, parents have a keener awareness at this time of

the value in their children developing resilience and agility so that they cope during uncertain

and challenging times.”  

Researching, considering and applying to tertiary institutions along with your child works best by

following an agreed process, where roles and responsibilities, and where the power lies in

decision-making are clear upfront. Itemising your priorities when it comes to what you want

from the institution can expand the criteria you and your child will use to evaluate, which

supports optimal decision-making. For instance, the quality, breadth and depth of student

support services offered may be important for new students who require input and reassurance

as they embark on their studies. Educational philosophy and institutional values may be

important to some parents who want their children growing up to be agile thinkers and

appropriately flexible in a world that is becoming increasingly uncertain and volatile. Kendall

says, “It was interesting to find in our research that many parents were not just concerned about

academic rigour, but also want to see their children gain practical skills through their tertiary

studies. This is a shift in today’s parents who are recognising that tertiary institutions need to

help students become work-ready and that their study experience needs to build real-life

competencies as well as academic knowledge. SACAP is very well placed to deliver on these

needs and to ensure that our graduates are able to respond and adapt to challenging

environments as they grow in their career.”

SACAP, which offers accredited degree programmes in Applied Psychology, Management &

Leadership, and Social Work & Community Development, has a keen focus on innovative

teaching and content styles for educating agile thinkers for the future. That institutional agility

was put into practice over the pandemic years, when SACAP has kept every student always on

track with their studies with very few interruptions and delays. SACAP also has one of the most

comprehensive and holistic student support services offered in South Africa.

SACAP Registrar, Claire Du Plooy says, “I have had the privilege of studying in various Higher

Education private and public institutions, and I have never seen or experienced student support

and development in quite the way SACAP offers it. SACAP recognizes that academics is one

part of the student's life and journey, but that their academic success also relies on their

emotional and psychosocial wellbeing. The focus is therefore on the holistic student, from

academics to emotional support to student life. I think the one thing that sets SACAP’s student

support and development apart is that I genuinely believe that each member of the team has a

passion for students, for their growth and for their success. Practically, what this looks like is the

availability of individual and group counselling support, individual and group academic support,

various workshops, online interventions, social events, advocacy and leadership opportunities,

peer-support, and support and genuine care of our students on their academic journey.”

This is designed with the needs and wants of Gen Z students particularly in mind as a

generation which values input, mentoring and close support as they develop the all-round skills

and particular 4iR skills-sets that will help set them up for work success.

Kendall concludes, “Parents and their matriculants need to take a range of factors into

consideration as they seek a good match between their child’s learning style, strengths and

challenges, as well as their career goals. Tertiary education is a whole-of-life, absorbing

experience, and each aspect of this plays a role in the outcomes of their child’s studies.”

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