In a few months time, our oldest son, Joshua, will be starting university. Wow! Where does time go?
Josh and I have spent a lot of time this last year researching universities and courses online, reading prospectuses and looking round some places. It’s been really special to have something to connect us, and have days out together.
We’ve ended up with an overload of information, jotted down in various notebooks, on prospectuses and scrappy bits of paper.
Looking back, it would have been so useful to have had a plan in place before starting, a list of questions to ask, and an organised way of recording information. But first time round, you just don’t know, do you? We didn’t even know what sort of things we should be asking.
Well, we’ve learnt a lot! And, good news for you, if you have a child applying to university or college anytime soon, I’m going to share it all with you!
(Much of what I share applies to any kind of further education – I’ll just use the word ‘university’ to keep it simple. Later in this post, I’ll share some sites which provide great alternatives to university. So keep reading! And, if further education seems a long way off, then bookmark this page…the years roll by fast! Or share it with a friend who needs it.)
In this post, I’ll share
- What questions to ask as you and your child research universities and courses
- The sites we found most helpful in our search for university and course information
- Different options for visiting universities
- My free printable: University Choice Guide and Application Checklist which includes the questions you need to ask, sheets to record your findings and compare universities and courses, and a checklist of everything you need to do in the application process.
This post refers to the UK system of university application through UCAS, but lots of the ideas will be useful for university choice and application where ever you live!
(And, I am kind of assuming that you’ll be helping your child in the whole university search and application process! It’s a great way to connect and show interest in them and their future.)
So here we go!
Questions to ask as you and your child research universities and courses
(depending on what’s important to you and your child, of course)
1. Type of University
Is it a campus university? Does it have several campuses? If so, what subjects on are what campus? Or is the university spread out over the town? Is it a specialised university? Will other students be studying the same subject, or will there be a mix of students taking different subjects?
2. The Course
How long is it? Is there the option to have a year overseas/a year in industry? What type of course is it – BA, BEng, BSc or other, and does this make a difference to postgraduate study or job? What course options/modules are there? What percentage of the course is lecture/practical/self-study? What percentage of assessment is coursework/practicals/examination?
3. Entry Requirements
What are the entry requirements? How many UCAS points are needed? What results are accepted – A’Level, International Baccalaureate, BTEC, APs, other, and in which subjects? How many IGCSE results are needed at grade C and above? Which IGCSE subjects are needed?
How much are tuition fees? How much is university accommodation/ private accommodation? How much should be budgeted for living expenses? Travel costs from home town to university? Travel costs within university town? Is there a free/subsidised town/campus bus service for students? Cost of sports/social clubs? Are there government or private grants/loans/scholarships available? How to apply for them?
How far is the university from home? What options are there for getting there? What costs will be associated with this? How often will your child be able to come home each term?
Is accommodation provided/guaranteed by the university? For which years? Is it catered or self-catering? What facilities are included – private/shared bathroom, kitchen, communal areas, cleaning service, hall societies, outdoor space, parking, security? Cost? How far from campus/subject departments is university accommodation? Is transport provided? Are private rentals easily available? Cost? Is there a university accommodation service that helps in finding a private room/house?
7. Special Needs
Accessibility on campus? Is there a university service that provides support and information for students with disabilities/special needs? What kind of support/testing/funding is given?
8. Social Life
Is there a Student Union? Is it active? What clubs and societies are there? What amenities/facilities are there in the local area?
9. Christian Life
Is there a Christian Union? Is it active? How often do they meet? What kind of events do they organise? Are there hall fellowship groups? What churches are nearby?
10. Student Satisfaction
What do existing students think of the course/lecturers/university/ accommodation/social life?
11. Open Days
What kind of open days are there? When are they? What will a visit include? Will you be able to see inside departments/accommodation and talk with lecturers/students?
12. Do I Like This University/Course?
Your child. Not you! Yes, your child may have a different opinion to you. And this is the most important question for them to ask. As parents we can pray, but at the end of the day, I think it’s their future and their choice.
So, there you go! Lots of things to think about. Don’t be overwhelmed. I’ve created a simple printable to help you keep all your information in one place and easily compare universities and courses.
Suggestions on how to find the answers to your questions:
- Visit each individual university website
- Order a prospectus (you can do this through each university website) and read through it
- Visit the university itself, look round and talk to staff and students. Ask them your questions!
- Make use of online information.
Speaking of which, here are
The best sites we found for further education choice, advice and application
UCAS – the official UK university advice and application service.
Which? University – another great site with university application advice, subject guides, course finder, and university profiles.
Discover Uni – this is a great tool to pull up courses side-by-side to compare entry requirements, student satisfaction, % of lecture vs practical, type of assessment, cost etc
I’m Not Going to Uni – alternatives to university – gap years, apprenticeships, jobs, traineeships, alternative courses and much more.
Career Pilot – further education and career options for school leavers
Options for visiting universities
There are several ways to visit a university. Josh and I did not get to any official university open days because we were living overseas, and missed them. However, when we were back in the UK last summer holiday, we discovered there are several different ways to visit:
- Open Days. The whole campus is given over to visiting prospective students. There will be sample lectures, tours of campus and accommodation, department visits, and opportunity to talk to staff and students.
- Guided group tours. A current student shows prospective students round the campus. You may not be able to see inside departments or talk to anyone who has knowledge of your subject.
- Self-guided tours. You will be given a campus map, and can wander round yourself. Again, you may not be able to see inside departments or accommodation.
- Offer Days. Once your child has been made an offer by the university, they will often be invited to an offer-holder day. A good chance to look around if you haven’t already.
- Clearing Days. These are open days for students who have not achieved their expected A’level results and are applying to other universities last minute through clearing. You may be able to tag along!
- Private visits. We discovered that universities are very willing to accommodate you if you are unable to visit during one of their scheduled times. Just give them a call and arrange a visit. We were very impressed with the individual attention and time we were given at a couple of universities. (We got shown round by heads of departments.)
I hope this post is useful to those of you looking ahead to further education for your children! Remember to check out the UCAS website for the actual university application process and the dates that your child needs to get things done by.
Above all, may…
“the peace of God, which transcends all understanding…guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phillipians 4:7
God has a great future for your child. He will lead and guide them.
Remember to download your free University Choice Guide and Application Checklist
If you know of any other useful websites, or think of other questions to ask, then let me know in the comments!
And do share this post with friends who are looking ahead to further education options, by using the sharing buttons below. Thanks so much!
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