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Simple mistakes that cost top students their dream courses

By Augustine Oduor | April 12th 2020 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

The Fountain of Knowledge at the University of Nairobi. [File, Standard]

Avoidable mistakes by top Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination candidates continue to stop them from pursuing their dream careers.

Analysis by the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCSPS) reveal that your son or daughter who scored A, A– or B+ grades might miss out on medicine, nursing, engineering, pharmacy, architecture and other highly sought-after courses during the first round of placement.

This year, 36,522 students who scored C+ and above failed to secure any of the degree courses they selected, results of first revision show. And with revision of courses underway, similar mistakes are likely to recur, further threatening to deny thousands of candidates their top courses.

The agency’s report reveals that one of the most common mistakes students make is to go for the most competitive degrees only, leaving them with no fallback if they fail to get a slot in their programmes of choice. 

“For example, submitting engineering courses across all the four choices, or going for medicine as choice one followed by nursing, engineering and architecture means if a candidate misses the first choice, they are likely to miss the rest. It is a good idea to balance the lists by selecting other emerging but lucrative courses in the last slots,” John Muraguri Muraguri, the KUCCSPS chief executive, said.

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Students have 18 choices open to them when making applications. Of these are six options for degree courses, four for diploma programmes and a similar number for craft certificates options. Another four options are available for artisan certificate courses.

Most competitive

The Service reveals that only 11 universities will be admitting students into medicine and surgery degree courses, all having provided 525 slots for government sponsored students. One of the institutions declared a capacity of only 10, yet even candidates who scored B+ applied for medicine. 

Some of the most competitive courses are civil engineering, which has 523 slots and electrical and electronic engineering that has only 671 vacancies, the report says.

Architecture has 196 slots, mechanical, production and manufacturing engineering has 500, mechatronic engineering with 115 and aeronautical engineering with only 24 slots.

KUCCPS also revealed that some students select programmes but fail to complete the application process. 

“We have received enquiries from applicants who selected courses and put them in the ‘course basket’ – a tool in the application portal for setting aside desired courses – but failed to actually apply,” said Muraguri.

In some cases, candidates only submitted only one choice instead of the maximum four.  “Once they missed that one course, there was nothing to fall back on,” he said.

Muraguri however said that an opportunity has been opened for them to choose courses afresh. “Even though some of the courses they may have wanted to fall back on but ignored at first revision are no longer available, they should choose the best they can find during the inter-institutional transfer window at the end of the placement process,” he said.

During this period, he said, some students will have moved to the courses they prefer.

The report also revealed that most students fail to revise their choices as were submitted by their schools, hence losing the opportunity to apply for courses where they have a better chance based on their performance.

This means that in cases where schools fail to submit applications, students who do not revise their courses may fail to secure their preference. 

This year alone, placement data reveals that some 6,654 candidates who sat last year’s KCSE and qualified for degree courses did not make any applications at all.

A recent KUCCPS report disclosed that high school heads deliberately fail to make university and tertiary colleges applications for candidates at school level, compromising their prospects to pursue their dream careers.

For the past three years, high school principals failed to send applications for some 1.6 million candidates.

During applications, many of the candidates assume that because they scored high grades and satisfied all the minimum requirements for a course, they would automatically secure the course.

“Meeting the minimum requirements does not necessarily guarantee that they will get into a programme. They must not ignore the strength of their own performance compared to that of other applicants,” says Muraguri.

Cut-off points

The report said that all applications are subjected to a competitive process for the limited slots, where only those with the highest cluster weights among the applicants get priority.

The KUCCPS report also found that the other common mistake by candidates is assuming that the indicated programme cut-off point of the previous placement year is the actual cut-off point for the current placement process. 

Previous cut-off points are normally provided to the applicants to assist them in gauging how competitive a programme will be, based on the past trends.

The actual cut-off points are often computed at the end of the placement process.

“Cut off points may vary from the previous cut-off points depending on the number and performance of applicants for the specific programme in the given year, the available programme capacities and the general performance for the year,” said Muraguri.

To avoid mistakes, applicants are advised to only apply for a programme that, based on the previous cut-off trends, their cluster weight would be higher than the likely cut-off points for the programme. 

Overall, the report said that in most cases, students fail to take into account the relative performance of candidates in their year when comparing their cluster weights with previous cut-off points.


KCSE KUCCSPS Universities Education
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