How to choose your university and degree course (Part I)
In this post, Karina Kizhner shares tips for students who are in the process of researching or applying for higher education…
Applying to University is, more often than not, the first significant decision young adults have to make and it will affect them in years to come. Because the implications are substantial in terms of career prospects, finances and even geography (this is, after all, where students will be living for the next three years!) it is important get the right information from the right sources to inform their decision
Apart from the obvious things students should look into – university and subject rankings, admissions criteria, fees, employability on completion, length and mode of delivery, there are also less tangible factors, which may influence students’ decision such as student life, support offered, or student satisfaction. While the former is data which can be easily extracted from UCAS, university websites or newspaper education supplements onto excel spreadsheets, the latter is probably something students should get an idea of ‘first hand’. This can be done in a number of ways, but most students seem to opt for attending an open day, as it is perceived the simplest way to ‘get a feel’ of a university. Indeed, visiting the facilities helps to form an opinion on whether a university is right for you and clarifies things like what sports activities are on offer, what the accommodation is like and teaching facilities (that is, if the university arranges talks with academics) etc. If students cannot make it to an open day, they should try to phone one of the university’s admissions tutors – they might end up speaking to one of their future lecturers!
Another very useful tool, which is not utilised as much as it should be, is to talk to recent graduates or current students via social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter (e.g. the university’s Student Association Facebook group members). This could be a great opportunity to ask informal questions about workload, social life and general impressions and learn from the tips of students who have gone through a similar path.
A slightly different way to research the course and university of choice may require applicants to be a bit more proactive, but can go a long way in explaining how their degree would fit into their career plans. With the hefty tuition fees of today, this may prove to be not entirely useless. For this, students should try speaking to someone who is already established in their profession to act as a mentor and try to learn from their CVs, experience and advice. This can be a family friend; otherwise applicants can form groups with friends who share similar ambitions and search through LinkedIn to find someone suitable. Lastly, it might be helpful to research the websites of professional networks such as ijnet.org for journalism or www.lawsociety.org.uk for solicitors to understand the profession better and also to get an idea of what sort of academic and non-academic training they will be required to embark on.
What many students don’t realise is that their choice is not just restricted to a university. Some business schools and colleges for example do not appear on the UCAS website – and students might be missing a great opportunity there. At the London School of Business and Finance (LSBF) for instance, there are advisors that support candidates throughout the application process from the embryonic stage of initial thoughts about studies and career to an offer letter. Some applicants find having one point of contact to answer all their queries very helpful. There is a lot of information out there, and making sense of it all is definitely not easy!
Karina Kizhner is Head of Undergraduate Studies at the London School of Business and Finance (LSBF).
Extracts from this article were featured in an article by The Telegraph