58% of university students feel their course has not lived up to expectations, while a third say they would like to have changed course, according to the recent Higher Education Policy Institute report in conjunction with Which?
With this in mind, how can sixth formers evaluate potential universities and courses, before making UCAS applications, to have the best chance of their study experience matching up to expectations?
With universities holding Open Days at this time of year, teenagers should use this time wisely. They are an opportunity to get to know the university and the course. A check list of questions to ask current students, as well as lecturers and tutors, will ensure you leave with an all-round view.
For your chosen course, what is the contact teaching time each week and how does the system of tutorials work? How is the course structured and what content is covered in each module? How is the course assessed – how much is project work as opposed to exams?
Many students find out after they have started the course that it contains for example too much maths, chemistry, sociology or psychology for their personal interest or aptitudes or with only 10 hours teaching contact time a week, they feel a bit at a loss as to how to plan their studies independently. Getting this right can be a crucial part of enjoying your time at university and being successful.
Is there an opportunity to spend time in industry or support in securing relevant work experience or internships, building links with future employers? What percentage of last year’s graduates gained employment on leaving the course and what types of career have they gone into. What careers advice is available to students and do they assist with CV writing and interview coaching?
What facilities does the university have? What are the university dining arrangements if cooking is not your strength? What is the accommodation like and what is the policy for accommodating first year students? If this is your first time away from home it is far better to be allocated a room in a hall of residence where you will meet lots of other Fresher’s.
What is the atmosphere like? Does the city centre have an active student scene? You will be living there for at least 3 years so it is important to make sure that you like the location and will feel at home there. Campus style universities and those that are collegiate, located round about town have a very different feel and it is important that you feel at home in the environment you choose.
How do students travel to and from lectures? Are there good bus routes and is there secure ‘parking’ for bikes? Think twice about taking a car to university, at least in the first year. Parking can often be difficult and cars are very expensive to run.