Choosing your perfect University: 6 important considerations
From the tens of thousands of campuses located all around the world you have to make the seemingly impossible decision of narrowing these down to a select few. But where do you begin to tackle such a task? We have devised a list of 6 important factors you should consider before shortlisting your options:
In recent years there has been a shift in perspective. A few decades ago the name of your university carried a lot of weight, irrespective of the course or major you specialised in. However, as the number of established universities increases so too has student expectation and academic competition. Certain universities during this time have received significant funding targeted at particular departments and courses, consequently making them accelerate up the league tables and challenge some of the most prestigious universities. For example, if you are looking to read dentistry at university a more recent option we encourage our students to consider would be the University of Plymouth due to their large emphasis on practical training and ever rising league table position. Alternatively, one of the most sought-after agriculture degrees comes from the Stellenbosch University.
Degrees from institutes such as University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, Imperial College London, Harvard, MIT and UCLA will always be held in great esteem. However, for particular specialisms universities that you previously might not have considered applying to are now receiving even greater recognition for their course quality, improved facilities, student satisfaction and graduate employment rates. As such it is always worth consulting recent league tables to see which universities performed well to ensure you have a fair overall consideration of your options.
Campus vs city universities – Certain universities will be situated in a campus setting whereby all or a significant proportion of the lecture theatres, research labs, student housing, shops, sports facilities, libraries and some nightlife will be located within the confines of the campus. Campus universities have an extensive community environment and can be considered as having more of an immersive university feel. Making new acquaintances when you are a new student and orienting yourself around the campus can also be slightly easier. You could say they have an added layer of ease as, if you have any trouble finding a location, the likelihood is that anyone else who is also on the campus will be able to help! Some can find campus universities a little restrictive at times and hence feel that they do not necessarily offer the same levels of freedom or independence as city universities.
City universities have departments and facilities that are integrated and dispersed throughout the city. They are fantastic as they allow you to live very independently and give you the opportunity and freedom to really appreciate the city you are studying in (if you can’t tell, I studied at a city university and loved every moment of it!). Each university building is clearly distinguishable from the outside with a university plaque and the building’s name, so there is no risk that you might accidentally walk into an office building or someone’s home! City universities have a certain electricity to their environment, they are fast paced and require you to be acutely aware of your surroundings. One element you do need to consider with city universities is the distances you might need to travel between your lectures, the library and your home. For most city universities these distances will be nominal, a 10 to 15-minute walk perhaps, however it is not necessarily the timing you need to consider but more so knowing how to reach your destination. Allow yourself a few weeks to get to know the routes and to find any shortcuts – you will be able to map the city like the back of your hand in no time! In some cities these distances could be slightly further and in which case you may need to use public transport, trams, tubes or buses, etc. to move around throughout the day. This is a small consideration but it will mean you need to budget for this both financially and with your time – nobody wants to arrive late to a lecture out of breath!
For many students, going to university will be your first experience of living away from home. You might find this either an incredibly exciting or daunting prospect, either way accessibility of home comforts is an important aspect to consider. If you have chosen to study in a new city it might be worth looking into the logistics of travelling back home, for example the how far away the train station is from your accommodation or whether there is a direct route between your university city and hometown. If you have chosen to study in a new country you will need to make similar considerations; for example the distance and accessibility of an airport is an important factor, ideally you don’t really want to spend a whole day travelling to an international airport before you have even managed to get onto the flight. You might dismiss this as a factor now, but when the end of term rolls around you will want your journey home to be as succinct as possible.
If this is something that you find daunting, perhaps find a university that is close to a family member or friend. The likelihood is that you probably will not have the chance to see them very often as many university schedules are quite gruelling, however just the knowledge that they are close by if ever this is needed is incredibly reassuring.
Language of tuition:
If you are considering international tertiary education it is important to check the language of tuition, do not just assume that the course will be taught in English. In many countries, degrees and programmes are understandably only offered in the native language. If you are passionate about studying at an international university where the modules are not taught in English it is possible for you to use a gap year to learn the language to at least a proficient or advanced level.
As a very general rule of thumb undergraduate programmes are most commonly offered in a country’s native language, with a few exceptions, whereas postgraduate courses tend to have a wider selection of language options.
All universities will offer a similar selection of extracurricular activities and societies for students to join, including various sports teams, drama, chess, languages and music. The differentiation between these universities is mainly the opportunities their departments can offer students. For example, if you are a passionate competitive athlete, such as a footballer or rower, Loughborough and Newcastle University are both known for their dedicated sports teams and often have professional scouts observe matches and races. Other universities will have the same facilities but perhaps not the reputation or connections to push this further. The stronger a universities’ club or team the more funding they receive and hence the better coaching staff they can hire and opportunities they can offer.
Based on the university’s location, your expenses, with maybe tuition as the exception, will differ quite substantially. If the university is based in a larger city, you can expect a general increase in price across the board; this includes most notably housing, groceries and transport. This is a really important consideration and something we would advise you discuss with your parents. Student loans, scholarship, government grants etc are in abundance, dedicate a few evenings or weekends to researching funding aid; you may be pleasantly surprised with the resources you find.
Sorry. That was a lot of information to process!
But hopefully within this article you have found a few useful considerations that will help you narrow down your university choices. Try not to lose sight of the fact that selecting your university, your future home, is one of the most exciting decisions you will ever make.
We guarantee you will find your perfect university and feel confident that the next few years will be ones of joy and adventure, and we know that any graduate you ask will agree with us. At Feynman Education we have a dedicated mentoring team who are ready and on hand to help answer any of your queries, no matter how small, and help make this whole process as enjoyable and smooth as possible. Just send any of your questions via our website or directly via our e-mail.