The what, how, where approach.
Asking the question ‘how do I choose a university course’ means you’re already taking an excellent approach to the next step in your academic journey because the question should be framed around choosing a course not choosing a university.
Courses are taught differently at every institution – so university becomes a factor in the decision making process – but it is important to first think about what you want to study and then the how and the where.
So… what do you want to study? Big question. Try thinking: what do you want to learn more about?
What topic has really enthused you, what lessons did you find yourself participating in the most, what did you hear about that you then went home and googled all night because you actually felt so interested to find out more? These things that excite you are what you should be looking for.
You may well have been shown the UCAS website in school and it is a great tool for top-level searching to find courses within your general areas of interest – but, once you’ve identified the key topics you care about you can use this a way of combing through course content to check you get to engage with the things you’re passionate about. Often courses start off quite broad, but narrow to more specialist subject as you progress – so start to think about the path you could take.
Looking at university websites then brings in the how and the where.
As well as providing an overview of course content and module options, course webpages will outline the teaching format of a course – such as the balance of lectures and seminars, and how the course is assessed – so whether it requires written coursework or utilises practicals and timed examinations. At this point, it’s good to think about your learning style and whether you think that the course is structured in a way that’s going to allow you to thrive.
This can help you create a shortlist to refine. Here is the where may well become a factor for you. Are you looking at courses offered somewhere you think you would feel comfortable living? The what and the how of a course are, perhaps, the more significant elements – but it’s okay to acknowledge that you might want to stay close to home or that the idea of trying out a new city thrills you.
Overall, it’s a deeply personal choice and a decision that shouldn’t be rushed. Take the time to do as much research as you can and make sure that, whatever you end up going for you made an informed decision and knew what (how and where) you were signing up for.
This piece was written by Jo, University College London Participation Team.