With the academic year now in full swing, many prospective students who missed out on a space at their chosen institution, or those who considered furthering their studies but left it too late, mistakenly think that their chance will only come around again next year.

But education experts say there are quite a few options still open to people who find themselves sitting at home while their peers are studying, and to those who want to earn while they learn.

“There are actually so many fantastic opportunities still out there,” says Renee Hill, Managing Director of Capsicum Culinary Studio and The Private Hotel School, both brands of ADvTECH, Africa’s largest private education provider.

“Prospective candidates should know that some top institutions accept enrolments throughout the year, while others offer mid-year enrolments around June and July,” she says.

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Additionally, distance learning – which often has courses for which you can enrol at any time – is always an attractive option for those people who want to boost their career prospects, but who have to juggle a job, a family or both. Another group of people who may benefit from mid-year enrolments are those students who realise soon into their first year of study that they made the wrong choice of course or institution.

But Hill says prospective students who are considering signing up for a qualification in coming months should be as careful about their decision as they would be if they signed up at the start of the year.

“Always check that the institution and the course you want to follow is respected in the industry and that they are registered and accredited. Do not, out of desperation, be tempted to sign up with just anyone who printed some fliers and rented some office space in your town. You have to do your homework to ensure that the time and money you spend on gaining your qualification will be recognised and respected in the workplace,” she says.

In addition, those who are considering the distance learning route should ensure that they are prepared for the increased demands that will be placed on them, and get in the right headspace before they start their studies, adds Sanet Nel of Oxbridge Academy, ADvTECH’s distance learning institution which serves more than 20 000 students annually.

“Distance learning can make a tremendous difference to your career prospects and is great because it is quite flexible so you can study at your own pace. But it also comes with unique challenges, and anyone considering it should make sure that they tackle this life-changing project with a strategy that will ensure their ultimate success,” she says.

“You have to make sure that you have the right structures in place that will enable you to balance the demands of your studies with your personal and work life. So it is very important to get organised, with a daily schedule that takes into account all your responsibilities. You also need to become very disciplined, so that you don’t fall behind on assignments or studying for assessments.”

Nel says distance learning students should also remember that they are not alone, even though they might feel like it sometimes.

“Just like at contact institutions, good distance learning providers will have ample resources to assist you in making a success of your studies, and we encourage our students to get involved and make use of these opportunities for collaboration, discussion and support,” she says.

Regardless of the reason why someone wants to embark on studies during the course of the year, it remains important for them to consider all their options and ensure a good fit between where they want to go and how the studies can help them get there, says Hill.

Signing up with a contact institution will, for instance, provide benefits of gaining valuable experience while also making contacts in the industry which could open doors in future.

Signing up with a distance institution, on the other hand, will have the benefit of a person being able to remain in their current position while potentially gaining a valuable qualification to complement an existing one, or to provide the academic qualification to match their existing experience which increases earning prospects.

“Most importantly, you have to decide what you want to do first. Then do your research on all your options and the institutions that offer them. Ultimately, those who would like to study should know that they don’t need to write off the entire year just because things didn’t work out right from the start. And also that there is no need to compromise on academic excellence, as there are many options of the highest standard out there, even at this late stage.”

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