Choosing University Courses

Contributor: Claire

As so many prospective undergraduates head off to university this September, we must turn back to those who are about to embark on the daunting process that is UCAS, and also those who are about to embark on preparing for postgraduate study for September 2013.

I’m currently looking at postgraduate courses which will train me as a Speech Therapist, there are eight courses and even though I have a good idea what I’m looking for, it really doesn’t get much easier.

I was asked to talk to a family friend’s daughter who is embarking on the UCAS process, this experience inspired me to write this post – while I wait for an influx of more relevant posts. The main advice I gave her: Study what you enjoy.

I was originally going to study maths at university, but ended up enjoying my English Language A2 far more and changed my mind last minute, and boy am I glad I did change. Generally, you’re going to do much better in something you enjoy, mainly due to the fact that you’ll put much more effort into your course, which is seriously needed as there is a very large element of self study in any university course.

So when you’ve chosen your subject, to weed out the right course for you, there are several aspects of the course/university you’ll want to look for:

1. Modules: These will vary so much between university courses, mainly due to staff and their specialities. This is particularly relevant in third year, because the modules will be based upon these specialities. Again, choose what you enjoy/are interested in, for similar reasons above. Most universities will list the names of the modules, try emailing them for more information on the content – makes you look interested in the course and gets your name into the department.

2. Staff: Researching the staff is really important for the above reasons, if you do some reading on your subject outside your course, you might find the author teaches or is affiliated at a particular uni, such as David Crystal at Bangor, though this should not be considered your only reason to get onto a course! Additionally when it comes to writing your dissertation, its great to have a member of staff of which your subject is their speciality.

3. Facilities: Especially if you’re doing a more piratical course, the facilities the university offer in your department can open doors, and really enhance learning.

4. Research: More relevant for prospective postgraduates, but still quite important. The research that is happening in that particular department can give an idea of the sort of area emphases there will be on your course, such as at UWE we have the Bristol Centre of Linguistics – which also gives weekly term time talks from visiting linguists but one of their areas of research is second language acquisition, and within the course during my 3 years, I had the opportunity to take two EFL based modules.

5. Contact Time and Course Structure: This information is the least easy to find, and you will probably have to email the department to find out, but this is very important, especially as university fees have risen, as you want to make sure you get the most from your money. You don’t want to get to the course and find out that you are only seeing your tutors eight hours a week. Additionally if you’re not very good at exams, it might be worth looking at more practical courses with a higher percentage of coursework, or vice versa.

6. Societies and Extra Curricular: As I have endeavoured to express with this website, it’s not all about the study these days, and more about the experiences you’ve thrown yourself into. Having a university with a great subject related society can be really enriching to your studies, help you make friends more easily with your peers. Additionally if you can’t make up your mind what to study, you can join a society relevant to your previous interests, enlarging your social groups, while being able to hold on! There are also many societies which can fit great alongside your course, such as the large number of sign language societies across UK universities.

The most important thing to remember, is if you want to go to university if you throw yourself into life and your course, generally wherever you end up you will enjoy it. Personally, I ended up going through clearing after my previous offers had been declined, and it has been the best thing that ever happened to me 🙂

If anyone else wants to contribute on what they think makes a great university course, or if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to write below!