By Joshua Rom, Nottingham University
Summer has arrived and the exams are over!
This is the time of year where sixth formers and other students up and down the country flock to the universities for the open days to look around.
Now parents, you might hear information from your sibling’s best friend ‘s cousin about their findings from their child that graduated 5 years ago. Times have changed and you find yourself not knowing what you are looking for or even at really. I have the breakdown here.
The Campus: This is the first thing to properly have a look at. My first recommendation is to have a good look and take in the environment and soak up that university atmosphere. For prospective students think whether you could imagine yourself here. Don’t just go for the typical “Jew-Ni’s” because of the name and parent, don’t pressure your children to go here because of the social scene. I know plenty of people who have dropped out because they simply didn’t like the place and weren’t happy. So think can I imagine myself here? I would also say look at as many universities as possible so you would be one hundred percent happy with your second choice just incase you miss those grades. Also think about whether you would be happy at a campus or city based university. They are completely different in their environments. I would also suggest having a look at the town/city outside the university. No matter how big the campus is, it cannot physically offer everything!
Accommodation: The same goes for accommodation so make sure you take this into account. Ask yourself the same question; “Could I imagine myself living here?” Think about which hall offers the most social opportunities and interaction because the people you live with can either make or break your university experience. Also look at how new the hall is and whether it is catered or self catered. I am a very independent person and I LOVE to cook so self catered with a modern kitchen was very attractive to me. Take a note of prices because catered accommodation will always be more expensive. Have a good look at the different types of accommodation the universities offer and compare the different universities too to get an overall view.
The course: This is one of those obvious choices that really doesn’t need much advice. But to those who are looking, I would suggest to really compare each of the courses against each other. Make sure to look at the different course structures and the facilities that each department has and look at what the course can offer you. Look at the courses and see if they have the right specialization, flexibility and whether you have any choice in what you take or whether all the modules are compulsory. Bare in mind no student likes one hundred percent of their course but see how much you would like to study because you need to like your course otherwise your motivational levels doing all-nighters in the library will just fall down (you will know what all of this is about by second year). Look at the different staff members in each of the department websites and see if their interests match yours. This may sound a bit nerdy but I love chatting to my lecturers in my feedback meetings about the subject matter.
The student union: I cannot stress how important it is to look around the different unions. At university, the unions are mostly the hub of student activity where all the societies are based (including J-Soc). Talk to the students at the university and ask about their interests and experiences at the student union. I spend a lot of my time in the union doing student television and also when I was on J-Soc committee and the union has had a substantial impact on my university experience and even my future career choice. Look at the buildings themselves especially the social spaces and the facilities and keep asking yourself that same question “Can I imagine myself here?” and what the university can offer you in opportunity.
So that is my advice coming from a student who has been through the process recently and who is still at university and to parents of course still listen to your friends and see what they have to say. I know this process seems huge and quite intimidating at times and at this stage it is so hard to imagine yourself/your child even going to university because of the journey ahead but stay calm, compare the different places, have a good look around both the university and the town/city around the university itself and see what each university can offer academically, socially and in it’s environment.
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