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For a host of reasons, many of South Africa's school-leavers will be unable to pursue a tertiary education in 2015. What other options are available for these individuals? Unless you're an A-type personality who has had your whole life mapped out since you were 11, leaving the safety of the school environment can be pretty daunting, especially if you didn't get the results you were hoping for. Or, if you knew deep down, no matter how many times your grandmother insisted to the contrary, that you wouldn't get the grades to get into university or that you simply didn't want to be the first person in your family to do so. Recently quite a few well-known (and successful) people have come out to express their feelings that matric results are not the be-all and end-all in life. The comments are often viewed as controversial because it seems the whole world and his wife is telling you that you'll never get anywhere unless you get marks that come in flashing lights. In our youthful innocence we think our whole future rests on matric grades alone, but those who are older and wiser will tell you that in a few years' time you might not even remember what your own grades were, let alone anyone else's. Nevertheless, it's a universal concern and a staple Hollywood storyline. How many movies can you recall where the young protagonist is secretly dead set against his or her parents' ardent plans for a "college" education? Australian columnist and author of the book Find your feet (the 8 things I wish I'd known before I left high school) wrote in a piece addressed to Grade 12s: "For senior students, it feels like their whole future is resting on these year 12 exams. But it's not. Let's be really, really honest. Your final grade is just one little moment in time. The truth is the people who are living big, exciting lives; the people who are living their dreams, who are making a mark are not necessarily the people who got straight As or did fabulously well in the HSC or SACE or OP or whatever it is in your state [or country]. They are the people who are resilient. And persistent. They are the people who had faith in themselves and kept going." She goes on to explain that despite not shining at school nor achieving the academic requirements necessary for the communications degree she wanted to do, she was still able to fulfil her ambitions and become a writer - a very successful one at that. Of course, this kind of talk does come with the warning not to stop working hard or trying your best because, in reality, good grades are an easier in to the big, bad world. They give you a lot more options. However, there are also a lot of options out there for those who didn't do as well as they would have liked to. Each year, the fear of failing or doing badly in matric, is one of the major causes of depression and teenage suicide in South Africa. According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), 24% of our teenagers have thought about ending their lives. Educational psychologist Dr Tshepiso Matentjie, says that in many of the cases she deals with parents and children put a lot of unnecessary stress on themselves by thinking that university is the only way to progress in life. Lauren Schumacher, in an article for the Huffington Post, wrote: "It's really easy to get trapped in the cycle of getting good grades to get a good job to make a lot of money to pay for a house to support a family to send your own kids to college so they can get a good job and make lots of money. When this happens, grades become the foundation for an entire future - and perhaps even the foundation of your child's future, which is honestly just way too much pressure." As Dr Matentjie points out, university is not for everyone and it is not for every career either: "Some careers are best learnt in a more practical environment. Failing matric or not doing as well as you would have liked is NOT the end of the world," she says firmly. She says that children at risk are also those who do well but don't have the funds to go to university. As well as rewriting your matric exams, bridging courses, college courses or taking a gap year, there are also government programmes such as those offered by the defence force, the air force and the navy. Within these environments there are opportunities to study - for free. "It is important to teach kids to be positive and to work hard and do their best to get good matric marks. But it is also important to have a contingency plan," she says. Having a plan B in which you consider alternative institutions, study methods and career choices will help you to know that if the worst does happen, you will have something else to fall back on. So, what are the alternatives? «They don't have to choose a path that requires many years of study to gain the skills and knowledge that are in desperate demand Improve your marks Rewrite your exams (not necessarily all of them). If you weren't fortunate enough to qualify to write sup plementary exams as determined by the Department of Education, there are other ways to rewrite the subjects that you failed or those which you would like to take up a symbol or two. Star Schools has been in operation since 1968 and currently offers rewriting centres in Johannesburg, Durban and the Vaal. Each year, about 3000 students rewrite subjects after receiving special tutoring during the year. According to CEO, Atul Patel, the school has been so successful that they have now started a full-time Star Schools High which currently offers a grade 10 and 11 education. There are some criteria for potential Star Schools rewrite students which are that you have to have written matric in the last three years and you have to have come from a public school. Fees are relatively affordable in comparison with other private education and the programme is flexible with students having to attend only one class per subject per week. Patel says it is best to come to the centres' counters and speak to the people there who will be able to advise you on a specific course of action. "As well as teaching subjects, we are also into inspiring and motivating children who are usually disappointed and despondent. We ensure our teachers are passionate and want to make a difference. At the end of the year, learners will write the same exams as the current Grade 12's and their own academic records will then be amended. Star Schools is just one of a number of private colleges offering this solution. Bridge the gap Bridging courses are usually short, intensive modules offered by various universities and universities of technology to assist those who do not quite meet the entrance requirements for a degree. There are various courses available and their type and name depend on the institution and faculty. If you would still like to pursue a degree and you need a bridging course, enquire at your chosen institution as to what it offers. Distance learning and short courses If you don't have the funds to attend an institution you could opt to study by correspondence while you work. There are numerous private colleges offering all sorts of qualifications that could lead to degrees, diplomas or even employment. As Rob Paddock, Chief Academic Officer at the online education provider GetSmarter, points out: "Our experience is that open enrolment short courses, especially when delivered in a flexible format that allows students to work and study simultaneously, may offer a solution to addressing the demand for the scarce skills in our country, and simultaneously offer a viable alternative for those who aren't able to pursue a tertiary qualification. Employers are calling for practical skills and experience built on sound theoretical frameworks, and short courses provide an opportunity for learning activities to be designed around real-world situations to foster relevant, concrete skills development." Go the practical route If you didn't get the marks to attend university, consider studying towards a certificate or diploma at a private college or university of technology. These could eventually get you into a degree course, or you might find that they are sufficient to land you a job of a more vocational nature. According to Paddock: "In 2014, the Department of Higher Education and Training released a list of the top 100 scarce skill occupations in South Africa for comment. On this list, the usual suspects such as engineers, accountants, health professionals and architects were listed. University entrance requirements for most of these programmes are very high, and places limited. If a student is able to make it onto one of these programmes, it subsequently requires many years of undergraduate and postgraduate study to gain entry into the profession. All factors considered, it's not altogether surprising that there is such a deficit of these skills in South Africa. However, there are a surprisingly large number of occupations on this list that don't require years of study to enter the profession. Included in the list are professions such as Occupational Health and Safety Practitioners, Business Analysts, Project Managers, Software Developers, Supply Chain Managers, Computer Network Technicians and many more. "To be clear, it's not that these professions don't require a high level of skill and competence to meet the needs of employers, but rather that they don't require years of study just to get a foot in the door to start climbing the proverbial ladder. "For individuals who are currently trying to decide what to study in order to prepare themselves for the employment market, it becomes clear that they don't necessarily have to choose a path that requires many years of study to gain the skills and knowledge that are desperately in demand by employers. The cost of labour for most professions is largely determined by supply and demand, and if an individual chooses a profession that is in high demand by industry, with limited supply from the labour market, they can expect to earn a premium." So, if your results didn't come covered in first-class glitter, it might be wise to look on the bright side and realise you'll just have to take a different carriage. As Schumacher says: "Grades have their place. They're a necessary part of education. What they aren't a necessary part of is self-esteem. They don't really matter because they don't define us: what defines us is the changes education makes within us."