Studies show that most people’s New Year’s resolutions fail because they aren’t SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. But pursuing higher education is typically all these things. If you have been thinking about education, maybe this is the year to commit to online study.

For many South Africans, the rise in food prices and cost of living are setting up 2023 as a year of cutting costs and stretching budgets. I know that pursuing higher education may sound like a luxury for the few who can afford to think about the long-term, but investing in your education in the new year may be your best decision yet. After 15 years as a lecturer at various universities across South Africa, I have seen first-hand what a difference tertiary education makes.

Research backs this up. Graduates have higher standards of living and better chances of getting a job. Not to mention that graduates earn more – especially if they are savvy about their subject and course choices.

Online learning is an affordable, flexible and accessible way to pursue higher education – levelling the playing field for South Africans. A person’s social strata or their busy schedule and responsibilities no longer have to stand between them and a degree that could transform their lives. But, finding the right institution and the ideal course can be a challenge.

  1. Do your research – find a course that works for you

South Africa has several institutions of higher learning, many of which offer a variety of online learning platforms and qualifications. But not all schools and programmes are created equal. Besides being strategic about choosing the subject itself, be sure to choose a course that suits your financial needs and your schedule.

For example, Milpark Education’s new BCom in Accounting degree teaches wide-ranging financial accounting skills, which also prepare students for careers in management accounting and internal auditing – specialities which are currently in high demand in South Africa and around the world. This BCom in Accounting is an entirely online degree that allows students a start-to-finish journey to becoming a chartered accountant (CA).

If you are unsure about committing to an academic programme, you may want to consider a short course to test the waters. There are many different short courses that allow you to get a feel for a particular subject matter before committing long-term. Such short courses can easily be fitted in over weekends or after hours.

  1. Get the right mindset – vital tools for success

More than individual ability or an ideal set of circumstances, the right mindset is an essential component of achieving success. I have seen many students from all backgrounds and walks of life achieve great success despite tremendous obstacles.

Studies show people with a positive mindset live longer, are healthier and achieve more in life. One study showed that just by teaching students better coping mechanisms and tools for cultivating a positive mindset, they could improve their academic results.

  1. Don’t try to succeed on your own

We’ve all seen the Facebook post of the friend waving their academic degree. You know the one – big smile, cap and gown, the degree held high. In the photo, they might be standing alone. But believe me, almost no one gets anywhere in life without support. Whether it’s parents or friends, the counsellors or mentors at work, or student advisors and psychologists, someone has probably helped you get where you wanted to go.

One of the world’s greatest mathematicians, Sir Isaac Newton, famously said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” With this statement, he credits the work and the achievements of other scientists who had come before him, whose theories he expanded and built upon.

Being clear about how people can help support you is also part of the equation of success. Don’t be too proud to ask your close-knit network to help look after your children while you study. Remind your partner that the extra housework they may have to do while you study for your exam is going to pay dividends when you’re able to earn more money and finally afford that new car. Strong support and a network of helping hands are proven to help us in times of crisis.

If you do decide to make 2023 your year of studying online, commit to it and know that you will be tested. You’ll learn what you’re made of. There will undoubtedly be challenges along the way – but feeling daunted can be a sign of healthy ambition. I often think of the words of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female head of state: “If your dreams don’t scare you, you aren’t dreaming big enough.”


Written by Dr Judith Terblanche the Head of the Department of BCom Accounting, School of Professional Accounting at Milpark Education.