This post is part of our series on Studying in South Africa. You can read more articles on this topic here. For reasons why you should study in South Africa click here.

Deciding whether or not to go to University is one of the most important decisions you get to make in your life.Where to go to University is another neglected just as important. If you have not yet decided where you want to go please read our reasons why you should and why you should not study in South Africa.

If you do make the decision that you want to attend a South African University then you will find the following guide below useful. Even if you have not made your decision the checklist below will be useful. Exploring your options can help you make a decision for example comparing the process against the process of getting into a US/American based College/University.

Making the choice

  1. Make a career choice i.e. what do you want to be? A doctor, astronaut, software engineer etc.
  2. Find a University and decide on a relevant degree/qualification that will help you achieve your goals. You will find that the same qualification/degree might have slightly different names and requirements depending on the University you are looking at.
  3. Select between 3-5 Universities of your choice with the desired qualification and fit your needs. Anything less will limit your choices and flexibility later unless you really know what you are doing. Anything more than 5 will be just distracting and will dilute your efforts.
  4. Download each of the Universities’ prospectus (document with information for potential students
  5. Check the application guidelines
  6. Check the application deadlines
  7. Prepare and submit your application based on the guidelines set in that prospectus before the deadline passes
  8. Once you are accepted keep the acceptance letter in a safe place

Getting a student visa

Unlike when you generally visit South Africa as a Zimbabwean where you don’t normally require a visa, if you want to stay in South Africa as a student.

To get a Visa the following steps/items are required:

  • An acceptance letter from the University/College you are applying to
  • A valid passport with at least two blank(unused) pages.
  • Two passport size photos with a white background. You should not confuse these with the photo on the backpage of your passport. ¬†Although they are the same size you need to get these taken specifically for the visa application process after you already got your passport.
  • Notarized (specially certified) copies of your birth certificate
  • Notarized (specially certified) copy of your passport’s bio/back page (not to be confused with the outside cover page)
  • A medical report on your health prepared by a Doctor. It must be less than six months old on the date you make your application. It is advisable to have one when you apply
  • An X-ray or TB test not older than six months on the date you apply.
  • Police clearance
  • Medical Aid/Health insurance
  • Proof of financial means as shown by a bank statement from the last three months. This need not be your bank statements but the bank statements of your parent, guardian or sponsor
  • A visa application fee currently

It will usually take 10-15 days for your application to be processed. You might be called for an interview or the Embassy might request additional information from your


Once you carry out the steps above and get your visa all that’s left to do is to pay any required fees by the University. The payment plans and cost will vary from University to University. You will be ready to physically move to South Africa and start your University Education.

The following logistical arrangements can help with the process:

  • Confirm the opening dates with your University
  • Get your study schedule
  • Make transport arrangements e.g. leave date, transport mode etc
  • Take time to study about the University and it’s surrounding area/town/city. Google will be your friend during this process. Familiarize yourself with local customs so you can blend in when you arrive
  • Look for accommodation. It should be close to the school, affordable and away from crime ridden areas and areas prone to xenophobic violence.
  • Open a South African Bank Account (your Visa will be required for this)
  • Get a temporary job to help finance your study and stay. It’s easy to run out of money in a foreign land
  • Learn about South African fashion and buy clothes that will help you blend in.
  • Learn about South African hotspots

N.B While it is important to be an individual and honour your roots society can be very cruel to those who are different. Be an individual but blend in. Societies, and the South African community in particular, tend to punish foreigners who they cannot assimilate one way or the other.