How do I choose where to study?
Thinking about what sort of study you are going to do after school will invariably lead you to thinking about where you might do that study. Every tertiary learning institution is different in the focus it has, the courses on offer, and the sorts of student facilities it provides.
So how do you decide which one is best for you?
Here are 8 key considerations to take on board when choosing where to study.
Field of Study
One of the obvious things to consider is the field in which you want to study. Each institution will have a particular focus – no Uni or college can offer every possible subject choice. Make sure you research on their website to see that your chosen field is well resourced and a strong focus at that institution.
One way to work this out is to see what specialised facilities they have in your chosen area – such as affiliated research institutes, technology parks, on-site laboratories, or a moot court if you want to study law. Other indicators may be practice-oriented learning, where you can undertake professional practice during your degree, or opportunities for holiday internships with companies in your chosen field or industry.
Each course at each institution will have its own specific entry requirements. This might, for example, be a nominated ATAR, having completed other pre-course study, or an entrance score combined with an interview or submission of a portfolio of work.
Your ability to meet these requirements will determine which institutions can go on your shortlist of potential options!
There are a number of published rankings and ratings that most universities and a number of colleges use to market their courses, teaching quality and facilities. The rankings vary across a wide range of measures such as student/staff ratios, staff qualifications, student satisfaction, or graduate employment rates.
The institution might tell you they are a 5-star University, or that they have achieved a high score for community equity by incorporating units with community engagement activities into their studies.
Make sure that the rankings they are citing are well-recognised (perhaps even internationally), are comparing like institutions, and are based on criteria that you consider important in choosing which institution to attend.
Often, your first instinct is to choose a location that it is easy for you to get to, whether you are driving or using public transport. But don’t discount other ways of choosing the right location for you.
If you are prepared to move to study, another option is to look at all the unis that have residential colleges on site or close by, and offer the type of course you are looking for, and then compare them based on your main criteria. Some regional institutions offer great facilities and lifestyles that may be more appealing to you than a crowded metropolitan campus.
Flexible Study Options
If you want the option to study by distance education, or the flexibility to combine some online study with on-campus learning, then this may be a way to narrow down your potential choices. Not all institutions offer all options; others may have a strong track record in your preferred mode of learning.
Some universities even offer TAFE or vocational courses that give you the opportunity to move into, or get credit for, degree subjects once you complete the initial qualification.
The University Community
Every institution has its own distinctive ‘feel‘ – is it an older University with a rich history, or a newer, perhaps smaller campus, with a community atmosphere. You can look at websites to get an idea of what life on campus might be like, but the best way to get the ‘feel’ for a place is to visit it.
This will enable you to not only work out how easy it might be for you to get there most weekdays, but you can also see if the quality of the facilities seem to match the website description.
Are there plenty of places where you can interact with other students, or find a quieter corner to study if you need to? If you intend to study engineering, do they have up-to-date labs? Talk to staff and other students and see what they say about life on campus.
No-one expects you to spend all of your time studying! Social life is an important part of any university or college. If you have a particular interest in, say, drama, sport or debating, you might want to look for places that have good facilities and a strong reputation in the things you like doing outside of study time.
Participating in campus life outside of study can be very rewarding, and may even be the start of a fabulous career where you can combine your personal interests with your job!
In some instances, you may also have to consider and compare course fees, and if fee help is available if you qualify.
There are a number of considerations you need to take into account in determining what Uni or college might best suit your study and lifestyle needs. Make sure you do your research so that the one you choose aligns with your interests and goals.