Along with the BIG decision of what you want to study (which will determine what you will be doing for the rest of your life), you also need to decide where you are going to study. Universities, FET's and Universities of Technologies differ in many ways. Here are some things to consider when comparing the pros and cons of different education providers and deciding which campus is for you.
Where they are
Campuses can be inner city, suburban, in rural centres, or just plain rural. Each city or town has its own unique personality and activities on offer so think about the differences in lifestyle, cost of living, transport and people that appeals to you most. You may prefer sunshine and coastal regions like Cape Town and Durban, or the hustle and bustle of the big city life like Johannesburg and Pretoria.
The size of each campus has a big effect on the atmosphere, social life and facilities of each institution. Big institutions such as the University of Johannesburg and Stellenbosch University have tens of thousands of students, while some smaller institutions only have a few dozen. Some campuses are spread out over hundreds of m² while others are confined to a single central campus.
How hard they are to get into
Generally, universities, especially the top institutions in South Africa, are harder to gain access to than other universities, Universities of Technologies and FET's. If you are worried about meeting the admission requirements of a particular course, it's probably best applying to a few places, including a campus that is not as competitive.
Facilities and services
What range of academic resources, student support services and leisure facilities are available? Big campuses have the comforts of small towns - you can get everything from a haircut to a four-course meal. At some small campuses you can't even get a coffee, but you can enjoy a more intimate atmosphere.
There may or may not be lots of mature age students, school leavers, part-timers or overseas students. You can search the institution's website for more information on their alumni. You will be pleasantly surprised by the number of well-known people that attended tertiary institutions!
Style and ethos
It's hard to pin down, but no two campuses feel the same. Some seem serious and scholarly, while at others the atmosphere is bohemian, political, sports-mad, religious, or all about having a good time. So choose wisely as you will be spending a few years there to complete your selected programme and you don't want to be stuck in a place where you don't feel welcome!