10 Things to Remember Before Applying to University

by Staff Reporter

Applying to university can be a daunting process. Make sure you are well prepared and that you know what to expect before applying to university by reading these 10 tips!

Table of Contents

applying to university

1. Be Mindful of Closing Dates When Appying to University

The first thing you need to do when applying to a university is to check the deadline for your application.

Different institutions have different deadlines, so make sure you know when each one is. Missing a deadline could mean that your application gets rejected outright!

2. Check the Requirements Before Applying to University

Every university has different requirements for admission. When applying to university, make sure you check what is required by the university or colleges you are interested in and plan accordingly.

Download their prospectuses/student guides/handbooks so that you know all there is to know.

Downloading their prospectuses will give you a greater understanding of the university’s exact requirements. 

3. When Applying to University, Start Your Application Early

The university application process can take a while, so it’s important to start early.  The sooner you start applying to university, the better. This gives you more time to gather all the necessary documents and make sure everything is in order.

This way, you won’t have to rush and can take your time to fill out the forms and gather the required documents before applying to university.

Make sure you have all your exam results from Grade 11 and your June matric exam marks on hand. You may need to submit both sets of results to the university with the application.

The next step is to gather all of the materials you need for your application. This usually includes your transcripts, test scores, and a personal essay. You may also need to get letters of recommendation from your teachers or mentors.

Before you start applying to university, make sure you have everything ready before filling out the application so that you can submit it as soon as possible.

Never send the originals!

You will need to submit a certified copy of these results. Never send the originals!

Note: Most universities require you to complete a National Benchmark Test (NBT). Find out if you need to complete one before applying to university.

student handing in university application after applying to university

4. Be Prepared for Fees When Applying to University

University tuition fees can be expensive, so it’s important to be prepared financially. There are various ways to finance your university education, such as scholarships, bursaries, and student loans.

Have a look at the fee booklet with your parents or guardians and together. Come to a conclusion about whether or not you might need financial aid when applying to university.

If you do require financial aid from your university, there will usually be a separate form you may need to complete. Make sure you have your parent or guardian’s most recent payslip for this before applying to university.

A breakdown of student costs in South Africa

Apart from university fees, there are many other costs to consider when applying to university in South Africa. Have a look at our Cost of Studying in South Africa article to get a better idea of what you'll need to budget for.

5. Make Sure All Details Are Correct

Once you start applying to university, it’s important to follow the instructions on your application carefully. Each university has different requirements and processes, so make sure you read the instructions carefully and follow them to the letter.

Forms can be a pain to fill in, and are often complicated! Go through the forms slowly and make sure you fill in each part of the form carefully so that you do not make mistakes. Any unnecessary mistakes could end up in a lot of wasted time and money, so be sure to read the instructions carefully before starting your university application.

  • Consider doing your application in pencil before you fill it in with a pen.
  • A black ballpoint pen is usually the accepted method for filling in forms—put the purple pen away!

Another point to consider:

When applying to university, make sure you have a working email address, which anyone can create by registering an email address

Note: You will also need a working mobile phone number and a postage address!

6. Consider the Current Year’s Activity

For your application, you will most likely need to fill in what you have been doing for the last year before applying to university.

  • If you were a student at school you also have to submit your exam results and school subjects.
  • If you were travelling, you may be required to provide details of your activities.
student applying to university

7. Remember Your Supporting Documents

You’ll need a variety of documents when applying to university, so make sure you have everything you need before you start filling out your application.

Your application will need to be signed by your parents or guardians and by you.

Make sure that you all know exactly what you are signing and that all the information in the application is true and correct.

Most of the applications require supporting documents.

  • These are certified copies or your ID and certified copies of your parents or guardians ID.
  • Other supporting documents may be your exam results, proof of residence and a recent payslip.
  • Make sure that you have copies of these documents and never send the original!

8. Consider your Living Arrangements

Will you be living at home or away from home? If you’re planning on living away from home, research different university residences and off-campus housing options. If you need accommodation, apply early!

Student accommodation is available to university students in South Africa, either in the form of on-campus accommodation or off-campus accommodation.

When choosing from the different student accommodation options available, there are many different factors to consider such as proximity to your campus and transport routes, available facilities and utilities such as laundry, access to medical facilities, entertainment, internet and more.

9. Don't Forget Transportation

How will you get to university? If you’re planning on driving, factor in the cost of fuel and parking. If you’re taking public transportation, research the routes and schedules.

Getting to and from your classes is a unique challenge for every student.

For some, it involves having a car on hand and having parking available within their accommodation setup. For others, public transport and making use of the train, commuter busses and university shuttles are the way to go.

Research your options to make an informed decision!

10. Have a Backup Plan

It’s important to have a backup plan in case you don’t get into your first choice university. Research alternative universities and programmes so that you know what your options are.

If you are accepted to your chosen university you will be sent a formal letter or email.

  • You will usually have a few months in which to accept based on your final results (so no slacking off yet!). Remember to accept the offer and make sure that in the following year you have paid the Minimum Initial Payment (MIP).
  • The MIP is the minimum amount of your fees which must be paid in order for you to begin a ‘payment plan’ with the university. It is also often what must be paid in order for you to secure a place in a residence.
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Top Tips for First-Year University Students

The first year of university can be scary, and you may not be sure what to expect. Don’t worry though, we’ve compiled some top tips to help you get through the year:

  • Get to know the campus: Once you’ve been accepted to university, take some time to explore the campus and familiarize yourself with the surroundings. This way, you’ll feel more comfortable on your first day of classes.
  • Make new friends: university is a great opportunity to meet new people from all walks of life. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and make some new friends!
  • Join clubs and organisations: university isn’t all about studying! There are tons of clubs and organisations on campus that you can join. Find one that interests you and get involved!
  • Enjoy your university experience: University is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so make sure you enjoy it! Explore new things, step out of your comfort zone, and take advantage of all the opportunities university has to offer.

Finally, remember to enjoy the process! Applying to university is an exciting time so make sure you savour it. 


We know that the stack of application forms and a looming deadline can seem very intimidating and the information that the university requires can seem invasive at times.

It’s important to remember that the university needs to have all the information needed from you and your family in order to make an informed decision.

If you are unsure about what to complete on a form, do not hesitate to phone or email the university and ask! These forms can determine the next three to four years of your life and you should not be afraid to ask questions!

With these things in mind, you’ll be well on your way to a successful university application in South Africa!

Fund Your Studies at a University in South Africa

If you need assistance with funding, we can help! Fundi offers student financing that covers a range of costs. Try our loan calculator to learn more.

Contact Fundi today to learn more about how we can help you achieve your career goals!

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