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Many people look for places in universities and colleges. Places are limited, especially in the public institutions and costs are high, especially in the private institutions. If you find you have really 'missed the boat' to study full-time this year and believe you will have to wait and apply to start a full-time programme next year, you may be able to do something in the meanwhile. 


Thousands of short courses are now available online that you can study at no cost other than the cost of your internet connection. So long as you have a computer, tablet or smart phone with an internet connection, you may be able to begin to study toward the field of your choice. 


Let's start with subjects that you may have been less strong on in school and may need better skills in for future studies. You may find a range of mathematics courses and self-evaluations on the Khan Academy website to be useful (http://www.khanacademy.org). These are mostly aimed at helping you to master mathematics. This may help you to better prepare yourself for when you take full-time courses next year. 


A site with over 500 courses is https://alison.com. The range is quite wide, including business, health and personal development. If you begin with one of these courses, you may be able to use the skills to find a temporary job while waiting for the opportunity to enter the college or university of your choice. 


The open courses given above are free and usually untutored - in other words, there is no one to help you through the learning material. If you would like to participate in an online course with lots of 'live people', there are also many of those. These are sometimes called "Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)" and are also free to participate in. Courses are offered by a number of institutions, including some of the 'big names' such as Udacity, Coursera, and edX. For a more comprehensive list, go to www.AfricaEducation.org/open_courseware.htm. Some of these websites offer an accreditation option as well, which means you pay to receive a certificate that proves you have completed the course. Remember to also give your technology skills a boost by doing the free advanced internet search courses using Google search - http://alison.com/courses/Understanding-Advanced-Search-Using-Google-Search.


No matter what courses you do, remember to carefully list these in your curriculum vitae or resume. This will help to show future employers how keen you were to develop your skills. Examples of formats for CVs and resumes can be found at http://www.careers.govt.nz/how-to-get-a-job/cvs-and-cover-letters/templates/#c31189. Once you have completed a few short courses online and improved the look and content of your CV or resume, you may find a job and then even begin to study part-time! This can help you to get ahead and keep the study loans down.


Submitted on 14 January 2014. First published on AfricaEducation.org.

Free courses for a gap year