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The school-leaver checklist

How do you feel when you think about your life after matric? Excited? Terrified? 

Maybe you cannot wait to move on to the next big thing – university, a gap year, or a job so that you can start earning money. Or does the thought of saying goodbye to friends and leaving home make you anxious? Life after school can be an adventure if you choose to see it that way. 

First things first. The most important task, besides passing matric, is to look at the options and figure out what works best for you. 

Here’s a school-leaver checklist to guide and prepare you for the adventure called life!

1 Get to know yourself 

Think about what you want before making any big moves. What are you passionate about? This is the best time to explore your interests and set goals. 

  • Ask yourself: “What do I love to do? What brings me joy?” 
  • Identify your strengths. What are you good at? What can you do easily that others may struggle with?   
  • Set short- and long-term goals. Where do you see yourself in the next year and the next five years? 
  • Find a mentor. This can be anyone you trust and who can guide you on this journey. It can be a senior community member, life coach or someone who is in the career field you’re interested in.  

 2 Look at your options  

Although there is no “right” path you must follow after matric, it is helpful to have a road map to a few so you are not completely winging it. Let us take you through some options:  

  • So, what happens if you don’t have a matric certificate? You can redo your matric via your or another high school, Further Education & Training Institute or distance education. The Department of Basic Education’s Second Chance Programme allows you to improve or complete your matric qualification, subject by subject, on a part-time basis at no additional cost 
  • Want to study? A range of tertiary institutions is available  ̶  from universities, universities of technology, technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges, and private colleges to distance learning and short online courses. Entry to some of these depends on your academic results. The costs vary according to courses and years of study and whether you study from home or have to relocate.  
  • Not entirely sure yet? You can also look for a job, start your own business, search for a paid learnership or take a gap year. 

Nolwazi explains…

Remember to complete applications and submit them before deadlines. Set a reminder on your phone a week before the due dates.   

3 Have your paperwork in order 

Whether you enrol at a university, take a gap year or get a job, you will need physical or digital documents.  

  • Collect your matric certificate. 
  • Keep copies of your high-school academic results. 
  • Apply for an ID at Home Affairs. And have certified copies of your ID and proof of residence (you can use your parents’/ guardian’s address).  
  • If you are applying for university or a job, secure letters of recommendation from teachers or other mentors.  
  • A learner’s or driver’s licence is not essential, but it will make your life easier and broaden the opportunities for a gap year or a job.  
  • Passport (if you plan to go overseas.) 

4 Be money wise  

Financial literacy is crucial to understanding budgeting, saving, and managing expenses. 

  • Learn about personal finances here. We have stories on topics ranging from budgeting to business.
  • If you want to apply for financial assistance to further your studies, make sure you understand student loans and repayment plans.  
  • Open a bank account. 

Nolwazi explains…

If you don’t have a phone, data or Wi-Fi at home, visit the public libraries in your area. Libraries often offer WiFi and the use of computers and printers for free or at a minimal cost.  

5 Develop basic life skills 

Regardless of what you choose, these basic skills will always come in handy:  

  • Learn how to cook, clean, and perform other household tasks.  
  • Help family members or friends care for their children. Having experience in looking after youngsters will always be useful.  
  • Time management and organisational skills are essential. Learn to prioritise tasks, be on time for appointments, and use a diary or calendar app to manage commitments.  
  • Communication skills are vital in the school or work context. Improve your ability to articulate thoughts clearly and listen actively. 
  • Do volunteer work in a field that interests you. It’s a great way to serve your community while practising life skills and meeting like-minded people. Long-term volunteer work on your CV also illustrates commitment.  

Leaving school is a major life transition, but it’s also an incredible opportunity to shape your future. Whether you’re headed to university or straight into the workforce, remember that the journey is uniquely yours. Stay curious, seek support, and embrace the adventure that lies ahead. You’ve got this! 

Further reading 

Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority: Guide to Leaving School
Post Matric: Guidance: Where to next? Plan your future
Praxis: What To Do After High School: A Comprehensive Guide
Vuk’uzenzele Newspaper: Post-matric opportunities for youth