Matrics: What To Do If You Don’t Do Well


As the matric class of 2014 hang up their blazers and pack away their school books, the period between the end of the final exams and the release of results is well and truly under way. While some may be certain they performed at their very best, many have to deal with the realisation that they may not have performed well.

This is traditionally a dreadful period for matriculants who feel that under-performance could sound the death knell for their hopes, dreams and aspirations. Although disappointment, anger and anxiety may characterise the first responses following unsatisfactory results, the sooner you are able to move to a solution orientation in the face of disappointment, the quicker solutions – which do exist – will be identified.


Dr Felicity Coughlan, director of the Independent Institute of Education, shares options available to learners who did not do as well as they hoped:


Here, consultation with the school is best as there are very limited circumstances under which these are available for matriculants. But where they do exist, they must obviously be leveraged. Many institutions will accept students provisionally if they are eligible for a supplementary examination, but succeeding in that examination is then required to remain registered.


Where the gap between what you want to do and how well you did is so big that the doors are all closed, repeating the year is an option. There are things to take into consideration though. Now may be the time to be realistic about your ability to achieve the goal you set. In my case, for instance, no matter how much I wanted to, I was never going to be able to do well enough in Maths to be an engineer.

The second thing is to understand that if you are going to repeat the year, you must know exactly what you have to achieve. It may be prudent to redo everything, but on the other hand, perhaps smarter to ‘bank’ the few excellent marks you did get. Be clinical and analytical in mapping what you need.

The third thing is to think about where and how you are going to repeat. Depending on your age and school policy, you could return to the school you have just left; or you could enrol full or part time in a school focused on either matric or the last few years of schooling. Alternatively, you could study alone through distance learning, with a tutor or online, or you could consider a combination. Once again, it is about doing your homework.


If you did not do well enough to be accepted for your chosen studies at your preferred institution, you should examine other options. These should include both private and public institutions. Remember South Africa has only one quality assurance system, so if you enrol at a registered and accredited institution, there are lots of options still open in the private sector, which may suit you even better in terms of the level of focus and student support you will receive. It is important to find the right fit, so visit the campuses and speak to current and former students, and do some online investigation to determine whether you like what you see.


While it may be too late to register at a public institution, private institutions often continue to accept enrolments if they have space left, and they generally offer a range of exciting degree, diploma and certificate courses.

Full qualifications are, however, not your only option. You may also want to look at focused training or short courses. Exploring something different now that your first choice door seems closed permanently or temporarily, opens up a new range of possibilities. Again, do some online research and see what else is out there. It may be a pleasant surprise, which leads you to your true calling.


It may well be that you need to spend the year working – perhaps while studying part time. Opportunities to volunteer at community-based organisations – full or part time, depending on your personal circumstances – should also be considered. Sometimes not doing as well as you had hoped has the biggest impact on your self-confidence. Giving something back to the community is one sure-fire way to regain a sense of purpose, and to recognise that you are facing a temporary setback.