What You Should Look for When Comparing Universities Online

When considering which university is right for you, the ideal scenario is being able to visit each one in person and get a feel for the place, see for yourself what it is you like and dislike, as well as meet face-to-face with potential professors and students. Unfortunately, visiting universities in person can be expensive, arduous and in the current climate, risky for one’s health.

Thankfully though, many of the most important resources for comparing universities and colleges are freely available online. However, with such a wealth of information for each institution, what should you be looking for when comparing universities online?

Program Content and Structure

Perhaps the first thing you should decide on is which course you intend on studying. Once this is clear, it becomes far easier to compare colleges and universities.

When comparing courses, consider not only the content (two courses with the same name can have vastly different curricula) but also the structure. How many modules are there to take? What freedom do you have in choosing? What will the average week look like, lots of lectures or more individual study time? What degree of practical work compared to theoretical? How many hours of teaching time will there be? Your preferences for each will be key in making a decision.

Assessment

Some degrees will assess you heavily by expecting lots of essays to be written. Others may have lots of exams, or practical tests, others may have presentations or group work. Compare course assessments and see which play best to your strengths, but remember: you are at university to test your limits and improve. It may be worthwhile testing yourself and choosing a course that will push you out of your comfort zone.

Academic Reputation

There are two things to consider here, the reputation of the institution as a whole, as well as of the particular course you plan on studying. Both can often be compared in some of the world’s most popular ranking lists, such as Times Higher Education, or the QS university rankings.

Location

Would you prefer to live in the city or somewhere more rural? In your spare time, would you prefer hanging out by the beach or going skiing in the mountains?

The area in which you choose to study is always important, though especially so if you plan on studying abroad, whereupon you not only have to choose a region, but the very country itself.

Entry Requirements and Affordability

When comparing universities, it’s also important to be realistic about your chances. When comparing universities, you should be checking the entry requirements like the grades or experience required, language requirements and tuition fees, to make sure the course is affordable.

Of course, when applying, it’s good to push oneself, but remember to have a back up to fall back on if things don’t go to plan.

Student Life

Many institutions have clubs and societies for students to join, which can make it a lot easier to find friends with similar interests, as well as a good way to pass your free time. It’s also important to see what is available to do outside of university though, whether that be the nightlife, events, particular places of interest or local towns or cities to visit.

Style of Institution

Some universities have a particular reputation for excelling in individual areas. This one produces lots of politicians, and this one lots of successful entrepreneurs, for example. Some will have a particularly vibrant nightlife scene, while others excel in spotting excellence. This sort of reputation may not always be made clear on a university’s website, so make sure to search and read through message boards or social media.

Student Satisfaction

Another common metric often included in rankings lists is student satisfaction. While this can be useful (especially when weeding out some of those with the lowest satisfaction scores), bear in mind that students can base their satisfaction on any number of things, which these results do not always make clear, so if two universities have similar scores, don’t let this affect your decision too much.

Prospects After Graduation

Compare the percentages of graduate employability (as well as how many go into further study), as well as the types of employment they have found and how much they are earning. Do these percentages reflect your own plan post-graduation?

Finding the right place to study can be a long and tricky process, but luckily there are lots of resources available online, such as Viva-Mundo.com, which guides students that wish to study abroad.

6 Ideas for a Safe and Social-Distanced Summer

This summer is certainly going to be unlike any other. Many states are easing up on their stay-at-home orders, while still imposing restrictions to prevent and brace for potential second waves. Whether you remained in the U.S. or are in your home country, we know that you’ve likely had to make adjustments to your summer plans. Because of that, we’ve devised a list with ways you can still have a great summer and prepare for the fall while being safe and maintaining social distancing guidelines:

Enjoy the great outdoors

If there’s one place you can likely safely social distance, it’s outside. With the wide expanse of the great outdoors, you can leave enough room between yourself and others while enjoying a change in scenery. With so many parks, lakes, and beaches in this country, there are a seemingly endless number of choices for anything from hikes or walks, swims, recreational activities, or even just lounging. If you live in the city and are going to a local park or outdoor area, you might want to try going during off-hours to avoid too many crowds, as it will be more likely to be congested.

Take a road trip

Do you have a car? Roll the windows down, create a summer playlist, and go for a drive! If there’s a scenic route in your area, map it out and drive to somewhere you may have driven by, but never had the time to stop and really see. Not into listening to music? Consider downloading an audiobook or listening to a new podcast. Don’t forget to pack yourself a sandwich, snacks, and beverages for when you need to take a break. Bonus points for snapping awesome selfies at all those picturesque spots you see along the way.

Take an online class

By now you have become accustomed to taking online classes, so this summer could be a great opportunity to keep the momentum going. If you have time in your summer schedule, sign up for a class or two to get ahead on your academic track. This could free up time in future semesters to take a class you might not normally have been able to fit into your schedule, to take a class outside of your major, or to even pursue an internship for credit instead.

Try that new thing you always wanted to do

See a cool do-it-yourself (DIY) craft that you’ve always wanted to attempt? Have you wanted to start an herb garden? Have you been meaning to learn how to play that guitar you purchased a few years ago? With many of our usual summer activities cancelled or postponed this summer, you might finally have some free time to pursue a new hobby. As an added bonus: picking up a new hobby might help you discover something that can help you relax, recharge, and de-stress.

Support local businesses

Your favorite restaurants, entertainment venues, shops and other businesses have taken a huge hit throughout the pandemic. Show them some love by ordering takeout, doing a little shopping, or even participating in any virtual versions of their offerings. This is a great way to stay connected with your local community and ensure that your favorite places are still in business after the pandemic.

Practice self-care

This might be one of the most important things you can do this summer, especially in the wake of feeling isolated during the pandemic and watching the news as protesters in the U.S. fight against systemic racism. While it’s important to stay informed and educated about current events, it can sometimes have adverse effects on your mental health. Be sure to make time for yourself to decompress and step away from the news. Do the things that help you de-stress and relax so that you can help your community, and enter into your fall semester ready to go.

5 Things You Can Do to Prepare for Back-to-School

It might be hard to believe this, but we’re already halfway through summer. We know, we know – you don’t want to think about moving back into your dorm and doing homework again while you’re enjoying the summer sunshine and a break from exams and essays. But while there’s still a lot of time left before you head back to school, you can make the transition back-to-school a little bit easier by doing these five things to prepare now.

Download your syllabi ahead of time

Some professors will make the syllabus for their class available ahead of the start of the semester on the class website or academic platform (like Blackboard). This is a great opportunity to do a little more research into the course you’re taking, because, let’s be honest, you might know little more than course title and a vague description. Check out what books are required for the course, and if possible, you could even skim your textbooks or do one of the initial readings for class. It might give you a sense of how time-consuming the reading might be so you can determine how to plan for other commitments, such as other class assignments, participating in clubs or on-campus organizations, an internship, and even just having a social life.

Get planning and map out your due dates

If you’re able to review your syllabi ahead of time, you will also want to consider getting a planner (sometimes called an agenda or calendar) and adding the dates of future assignments, tests, and other due dates during your semester. Whether you choose to use a digital calendar or put pen to paper, you’ll be able to prepare for how busy (or maybe un-busy) your semester will be. Having due dates in your planner will let you see if you have any overlapping due dates and, for example, come up with a game plan for how to complete an essay assignment for the same day you have a big exam.

Organize your essentials

We all have a tendency to procrastinate sometimes, but you don’t want to leave packing for the day before you leave home and head to school. Start by making a list. What do you need for the upcoming semester that you can’t buy once you’re already at school, or that would be too expensive or logistically difficult to purchase upon arriving at school? For example, you’ll want to bring the clothes you need for the semester (or maybe even the whole year) but you can purchase snacks and beverages upon arriving at school. As you create your list, you’ll be able to start packing up your things so that you have plenty of time to get the things you need ahead of time or notice if you’ve forgotten something.

Get your US phone number

If you’re traveling to university in the US for the first time, you should definitely get your US phone number before you leave your home country. By signing up for Mint Mobile through campusSIMS, you can pick out your phone plan and get that US phone number ahead of time. You’ll be able to give your phone number to your parents so that they have a way of easily contacting you once you get to the US. Also, with campusSIMS and Mint Mobile, you don’t need to activate your plan until you get to the US – so you aren’t paying for mobile phone service until you’re ready to use it. You’ll be able to activate when land and get off of the plane, but before then, you have peace of mind knowing that you’re already all set up with phone service.

Do some research on your new neighborhood

Whether you’re returning to school for another semester or you’re moving to the US for the first time, it’s definitely worth doing research on the city or new neighborhood where you’re living. This, of course, is important from a safety perspective – you should familiarize yourself with your surroundings so you feel comfortable navigating outside of campus if/when you need to. You can use Google Maps (or other maps services) to bookmark important places like local hospitals, pharmacies, grocery stores, and post offices or shipping companies (like FedEx, UPS, DHL). Additionally, you can figure out the places for more fun activities like local restaurants, bars, museums, parks, and more.