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From a gap year to a university degree, it’s your time to take on the world… and slay!

Lisa Schatz, HPCSA Registered Counsellor & Psychometrist, advises on options now that you have finished school. 

LISA SCHATZ | July 2023

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For the past 12 years (or more), school has been all you know. Lessons, homework, exams, reports, teachers, tests and timetables have been, literally, your life. But the next thing you know, you’ll have matriculated and that will all be a, thankfully, distant memory. The good, yet somewhat overwhelming, news is … the world is your oyster (and there are many pearls to choose from).

The world is a very different place to navigate now compared to when your parents matriculated. Actually, the world is a very different place to navigate even compared to three years ago, when Covid-19 exploded onto the scene. A lingering misconception is that university is the be-all and end-all of success – whatever that may look like for each of you. But that is a fallacy. Should you choose to study further, there are countless courses and qualifications to consider, other than university. 

Also, learning isn’t just a face-to-face thing anymore – blended learning, distance learning, hybrid learning, contact learning and online learning are all relatively new terms that you have no doubt come across already. Should you choose not to study further, there are numerous other great opportunities waiting for you. So, the question is, where do you even begin?

First things first: Who are you? 

Self-exploration, self-knowledge and introspection are vital on this journey. Underpinning this decision phase should be the answer to the following question, 

“Who am I?” Easier said than done, right? 

We humans are complex creatures, so we need to try and gain a holistic view of ourselves. You can start by asking yourself questions about your school performance, favourite and least favourite subjects, personality, values, interests and aptitude. 

Remember, no-one expects you to have it all figured out, so if you need assistance, ask! Sometimes simply chatting to a trusted adult – like a parent, guardian or teacher – can provide clarity and insight. Other times, it may be necessary to make an appointment with an objective professional to undergo psychometric testing to assist you – this can be a lengthy and costly exercise, but it is a worthwhile investment in your future.

And just like when choosing a tertiary institution, it is important to ensure that it is registered with the Council of Higher Education and that its qualifications are verified by the South African Qualifications Authority, when choosing a professional for a career assessment or psychometric testing it is also crucial to ensure that they are registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa. 


What next?

Once you have a clearer picture of who you are, your strengths, what you want out of life and where your passion lies, there are various paths to look into:

Redoing selected matric subjects or taking new subjects

I’m sure that most remember how daunting, yet exciting, it is in Grade 9 when you get to select your subjects for the FET Phase (Grade 10-12). For some, career goals change over those three years and by the time they reach matric, their subjects are no longer (or never were) aligned to those goals. 

Similarly, sometimes a student’s matric results aren’t quite what they hoped they would be and don’t meet the minimum requirements to apply for a certain course. Whatever the reason may be, there are institutions that allow you to either redo your matric subjects or to take a few completely new subjects in order to better your final matric results.

Tertiary education

Tertiary education is a privilege that not everyone is afforded, and it can be expensive. Don’t forget to research bursaries and student loans! Your subject choices and the marks that you obtain determine which institutions, faculties and courses you can apply for. 

In South Africa we have many tertiary institutions to choose from – both public and private. Jobs within the career field that you are interested in may require a Certificate, Diploma or Degree – do your research to ensure that you know which qualification will be best suited for your chosen path.  

Gap year

Typically, a gap year is the time taken between completing school and beginning tertiary education. If utilised correctly, a gap year can contribute significantly to your personal development. While there is no set format for a gap year, it needs to be constructive, intentional and have clear objectives. 

There are various ways to fill your gap year both locally or abroad, depending on your reason and aim of taking one, for example: travelling, job shadowing, au pairing, working overseas at summer camps, volunteering, stewarding on yachts, working on cruise ships, dog walking and upskilling yourself by doing short courses. 


The working world

For some matriculants, the next step is entering the working world in order to earn money. 

The dream would be to get a job in a field that you are interested in, while also allowing room for growth. In reality, those opportunities are few and far between. 

While on the job hunt, it may be worth looking around for any potential learnerships or apprenticeships that may be of interest to you. 

If you’re unable to find a job in a field that interests you, consider it as an opportunity to not only save up for courses in a field you may wish to build a career in, but also to learn transferable skills (skills you’ll learn on the job that can be applied in various settings) and grow as a person by improving your interpersonal skills and personal development. 

Ships ahoy!

Whatever your future holds, whether it’s what you’ve always imagined life after matriculating to be or not, the only person who can control what you learn from your experience, is you. Make informed choices by asking for help where needed, gaining insight into your own unique strengths, and remembering that you are the captain of your own ship. 



What: Allows you to apply for higher certificate courses
Where: TVET colleges or private colleges

What: Allows you to apply for higher certifi cate and diploma courses
Where: TVET colleges, private colleges, universities of technology and some academic universities

What: Any type of tertiary qualifi cation – including a bachelor’s degree (subject choice and result dependent)
Where: TVET colleges, private colleges, universities of technology and academic universities


Apprenticeship: An arrangement in which someone learns an art, trade or job by receiving on-the-job training from someone more experienced. It is sometimes accompanied by theoretical studies.

Aptitude test: A standardised test designed to determine a person’s ability to learn or profi t from an educational experience or the likelihood of a person’s success in a given occupation or course of study, therefore giving us an indication of future potentialities.

Career assessment: A tool that assesses various domains (for example Aptitude, Personality, Interests and Values) for individuals who may be wanting to gain further insight on themselves while deciding on a study or career path.

Hybrid learning: Courses taught both online and in person, giving you more flexibility.

Internship: A student or trainee that works in an organisation in order to gain experience or meet the requirements of certain qualifications.

Learnership: A structured training programme incorporating both practical and theoretical components while gaining work experience.

Psychometric assessment/test: A broad term incorporating various assessment measures that assess an individual’s various attributes across diff erent domains.

Transferable skills: Abilities, qualities and skills that can be utilised in various settings, contexts, industries and roles.



HPCSA Registered Counsellor & Psychometrist who has a special interest in working with adolescents and young adults. Based in Cape Town but services are also offered online allowing me to work with people across South Africa.

Web: www.lisaschatz.co.za

Email: info@lisaschatz.co.za

Cell: 072 122 9016