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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.