Choosing Your Course
Choosing Your University
Your choice of where to study will most likely be driven primarily by the course you want to study and where it is offered. Once you have decided what you want to study, it is important to do a lot of research in order to work out what university or institution is right for you. Although it might seem like there is little difference between the courses offered by different universities, this is not the case. Many universities offer specific courses which vary widely from each other in both their format and their focus, even for popular and widely recognised courses such as maths or sciences. Much of these differences can be found by looking at the course details on the university website. Some of the questions you should consider when looking at this information include:
- Which modules are a compulsory part of the course? For some courses at some universities, a large proportion of the content will be compulsorily, however how much, and what modules you have to take still varies widely. It is important to consider whether these modules are things you think you will enjoy and be able to do well in, as they will be an important part of your degree.
- How flexible is the course? As well as what is compulsory, it is useful to look at how much flexibility you will be given in choosing your own modules, and whether the options available are interesting to you – for example some courses and universities allow students to take classes in related fields of study
- How is the course examined? Universities and courses place different emphasis on the relative importance of traditional examinations, dissertations, and coursework, so it is important to know how your course is examined at the different institutions you are considering.
There is no right or wrong answer to any of these questions, so you should think about what most appeals to you, and the situations in which you think you would succeed, when making decisions about which course is right for you.
Choosing Your University
While the structure and content of the course is a major part of the decision-making process, it is also important to consider the merits of different universities themselves when choosing where to study. One important aspect of this is comparing universities’ academic requirements and rankings. There are a wide variety of international league tables which compare university performance, but two of the most widely used and trusted are the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and the QS World University Rankings. While these can help to understand the relative reputations of potential choices, it is also important to consider your own (predicted) grades, as higher placed universities will have more challenging requirements.
As well as academically, you should consider the nature of the universities you are considering, particularly whether they are based in cities or on campuses. This is another matter of personal preferences, but it is important to know that this can make a substantial difference to the student experience. For example, big city universities can provide excitement, access to a wide variety of entertainments and activities, and a bustling social scene, whilst more self-contained campus universities create a sense of community, convenience, and security.
Choosing Your Location
A final key element in choosing where to study is deciding on the location and environment in which you would like to live. On the most basic level this includes questions such as what kind of climate and physical environment you would prefer. If you don’t like humidity, or long dry-periods, for example, it is useful to research the typical weather conditions in the places you are considering. If, on the other hand, you are passionate about skiing, surfing, or beaches, you might follow those interests by choosing a location close to the mountains or the coast.
It is also important to consider the town or city your university choices are based in. Researching the locations online might allow you to learn about cultural institutions, entertainment centres, or opportunities which appeal to you and sway your decision. There are also many rankings of quality of life and student experience, such as the Mercer Quality of Living City Ranking, and the QS Best Student Cities Ranking, which can help to get a full picture of the advantages and disadvantages of different locations for visiting students.