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Understanding application processes for local and international universities

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APPLICATION processes for South African universities and international universities differs. Photographer: Michael Fein/Bloomberg

Published Jul 5, 2021


ABOUT 12 000 South African students are studying abroad and that number is increasing despite the complexity of applying overseas.

However, what is also preventing that number from growing at a faster rate is students not understanding the application processes, which differ from South African universities.

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Country Manager at global mentorship company Crimson Education Rebecca Pretorius said while there were a number of high ranking, prestigious universities abroad it is imperative that you take time in selecting a university that is the best fit for your goals.

Both locally and in the UK, certain degrees have specific school subject requirements as a prerequisite to entry. However, universities in the US, UK and other parts of the world, such as Canada and Europe, also have more holistic admission requirements.

“While high school results and standardised test scores, such as the Scholastic Assessment Test, or SAT, are weighted, they are not the only component of a student’s application that is considered for US universities.

“For example, a large part of an application to a US university is based on extracurricular activities, especially those that have depth, show passion, and demonstrate leadership,” Pretorius said.

Top international universities require applicants to submit a personal statement that details their interests, passions, experiences and even habits. Universities in the UK, Europe and other regions require students to cover their academic activities, and achievements within their chosen field of study.

While in South Africa, application essays and personal statements are not required,they are a critical component for international applicants.

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The US, on the other hand, in addition to a core personal statement, specific universities require supplemental essays.

“Top US universities look for students who demonstrate academic potential, and are intellectually curious, passionate, and enthusiastic. They want to see initiative and potential – and the supplemental essays give students an opportunity to go into more detail about their goals and interest in a chosen university,” Pretorius said.

Admission to South African universities is based on school academic results, National Benchmark Test (NBT) results, and in some cases, a minimum language proficiency. Certain degrees also place a bigger emphasis on community service while at school.

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Cost and funding

While opportunities for bursaries, scholarships, and grants are more accessible at local universities, funding for overseas study is limited. In general, South Africans will need to self-fund study abroad. Those that are available for studying abroad, may not cover all costs, including full tuition and accommodation.

Application deadlines

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Local and international universities have different application deadlines. In addition to the extra time needed for preparing essays and extracurricular profiles, academic terms in the Northern Hemisphere start in September, while Southern Hemisphere universities kick off in February.

“Students heading North need to keep a close eye on application deadlines – particularly for early application – in order to be considered for an offer to study. Applying early can have an impact on admission chances,” Pretorius said.

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