How to choose the right university?
During Year 12 students throughout the world begin the task of creating their list of potential universities that they will be applying to shortly after beginning Year 13. This is a key time for students to research and break down what they are really looking for in a university. In order to help students and families pick the right university for them, here are 4 key considerations to help students and families (not just in Year 12) narrow down what could be the right university for them:
- University fees vary hugely dependent on several factors:
- Location (city/town)
- Type of university (public or private)
- Reputation of university
- Your fee status (home/EU/international) Subject of study
Fees vary hugely based on some of the factors mentioned above. Fees can range from being free (minus some administrative costs) at a public university in Germany to $60,000 USD per year for an Ivy League university in the US. Overall costs can vary based on the location of the university, for example living and studying in London will be far more expensive than studying in a smaller university town or at universities located in the North of the UK. Your fee status will also significantly impact cost and now with the implications of Brexit for EU passport holders, studying in other parts of Europe such as Holland, Belgium or Ireland is becoming an increasing attractive option. International fees are usually set by the university (there is no cap), and as such universities with very good reputations will often charge the largest amount. Further, it is worth noting that lab- based courses such as Science and Medicine tend to be the most expensive, and Humanities- based subjects tend to be lower but this will vary between different university systems so this is an important factor to consider in terms of budget and cost.
As a family it is important to have early and ongoing discussions about what is feasible. Remembering that courses can be between 3-4 years in length depending on where you go in the world, as well as the need to also factor in accommodation costs, tuition costs, medical insurance, visa, travel costs and any other additional fees from the university.
Course content and curriculum
When choosing a university it is really important to spend time researching the course content and curriculum. Some university systems will be narrower in focus – much like when you order Italian food at a restaurant, you would expect to eat Italian food, university systems such as the UK, Germany and Canada are based on this idea that if you apply to study a course, all of the modules that you will undertake will relate to this field of study for the whole duration of the course. As such, this type of system suits students who have a clear idea of what they want to study.
For students that are undecided on what they would like to study, a US-style Liberal Arts and Sciences programme (more like a buffet!) might be better suited. Although the Liberal Arts and Sciences style of university education originated in the US, there are a number of universities around the world (normally private universities) that now offer this type of education so it is worth looking around at the different options available.
In addition to this, it is worth thinking about whether you would like to be a smaller university environment with smaller class sizes, and more contact time with lecturers, or whether you would like the buzz of being at a big university with up to 200-300 students in some of your main lecture classes!
Finally, it is worth looking at what internships opportunities are available as part of your course – Co-op programmes in Canada and Sandwich courses in the UK have intership opportunities built into them and these experiences can lead to employment after graduation.
Moving abroad (or even moving in the same country) can be a big adjustment for many students. When choosing universities, distance/location is really important to think about for several reasons. Here are some questions that might be helpful to consider:
- How far do you want to be from home?
- Do you want to live in a city or smaller town? Is it important for you to live near an airport so it’s easier for you to visit home?
- What type of location suits your personality and your interests – i.e. city, outdoors, a campus university?
- Where are you likely to work afterwards? Does it matter where you qualify/graduate?
Clubs/Societies and Support Available
When moving to university, one of the quickest ways to make friends and build a support network is to join different clubs and societies – the friends you meet at university often end up being friends for life! When conducting your research into a university it is worth looking at what clubs and societies are available (especially if you have a passion that you wish to continue pursuing at university!). It can be helpful to have a look at what events are run by the Students’ Union to help get a feel for what goes on on campus and to help visualise what ‘university life’ might be like.
Also, check out the university website to see what support is available – whether that be to find out what support they can provide for any additional learning needs, what mental health support they have on campus, and/or what support is provided for international students – these things can really help you to settle in more quickly with the knowledge that you will be looked after once you arrive.
Where to look for advice?
To help you find out information in relation to these different areas, here are some places that students and families can look to find out the information discussed:
- University open days
- Times Higher Education Rankings (check rankings with caution and consider looking at the things that are most important to you) Unibuddy – talk to existing students
- Speak to admissions officers with specific questions at University Fairs and events University websites, online blogs, social media Speak to teachers/former students
By: Dr Sadie Hollins (she/her)
Head of Sixth Form (Y12/ Y13)