Going to university is a big decision. It effects your future career path, and your wealth, health, and well-being.
Consequently, choosing the right university is important. Attending a university that is the right fit for you can make a big difference – in terms of job opportunities, career development, and general levels of happiness.
So how do you choose which university to attend? What should you look for?
Step 1: Talk to University Students
One of the best ways to work out wherever a university will be a good fit for you is to talk to current and past students who have attended the university. Talking to current and past students will allow you to get an in-depth understanding of what it is like to be a student at the university.
Students will be able to tell you about the quality of education, job prospects, facilities, housing, and what the university social life is like. It is important however when taking to university students, both past and present to get a wide range of opinions, across different faculties, as students may have certain biases, or limited experiences. For example, a university may not be strong in a particular faculty, and if only speak to one student who studies in this faculty, you will only receive an incomplete image of what the university is really like.
What to Ask
A good list of things to ask current and past students about includes:
Quality of Academics
o This should include things like lecturers, tutors, class size, course material, course structure etc.
o How hard or easy has it been for them to gain work?
Quality of Facilities
o Are the facilities sufficient for the university student body? Are they overloaded? How old are they?
Quality of Housing
o Find out what students say about cleanliness, access to university, cost and roommates.
o How easy is it to get to the university? How long does it take other students?
Social & Night Life
o What are the parties like? Is there a large variety of clubs and communities for all interests?
A great resource that has been developed to help prospective students discover what current and past students think about their university can be found at Uni Australia. Uni Australia provides tens of thousands of university student reviews and comments on all Australian universities, which allow prospective university students to really discover what a university will be like.
Step 2: Attend Open Days
Once you have got an idea of what a university from a current and past university student perspective, you should attend the university open day yourself so you can also develop your own perspective of what it will feel like to study at the particular university.
University open days are a great opportunity to work out how accessible the university is. Use it as a test to see how long it will take you to get into university, and the travel options you have. This is important, as depending on your course, you will need to travel into university anywhere from 3-5 days a week.
Additionally, University open days are a great way to check out the facilities. Make sure you check out the libraries, gymnasiums, lecture halls and labs. Keep an eye out for the amount of computers that are provided, as not enough computers can be a big pain when you are studying at university. If you are contemplating moving out of home and living on campus, be sure to get a tour of the university colleges and student villages to see if they will suit your requirements.
Beware of Sales Pitches
Finally, a note of warning. Often university open days can be deceiving as the university is making a concerted effort to sell itself to you. Be wary of the claims the university might make.
The university will often have current university students available to help you and answer your questions. While these students are well-meaning, often they are paid University Ambassadors, which means that you also need to carefully consider what they tell you. Always cross-reference what you learn at an open day with what you have learn from reading reviews, and speaking to past and current university students without any association to the university.
For information on University Open Day's in Australia, visit Uni Australia.
Step 3: Further Research – Career Development, Pathways into University & Scholarships
Once you have read reviews and spoken to past and current students, attended the open days, and developed your own perspective on a university, you then need to conduct some specific research on the university, and what it can provide you in the longer term.
Things you should research include how the university can help you in your career development. Do they have connections with industry? Do they have co-op programs, and offer internships alongside university study? What is the graduate employment rate for the university?
Pathways & Study Options
Furthermore, you should also consider what scholarships the university offers, and what pathways they offer into university. Do they offer TAFE Credits, and have relationships with colleges that allow you to enter university after studying a diploma or Advanced Certificate? Do they have special admission requirements? Can you study part time, or via distance?
Talk to Employers
Finally, call a couple of companies in the industries you are interested in that employ graduates and speak to their Human Resources Department. Ask them what they think of graduates from the university you are thinking of attending. Find out what skills and strengths employers see in graduations from the university, and what starting salies and ongoing prospects are.