If your child has a passion for a particular subject or has already decided on a specific career path then choosing which subject to study at university should be relatively straightforward. However, if this is not the case then your child will need to do some thorough research into which subject to choose before making any decisions. The National Careers Service, Prospects, and TES Growing Ambitions are all excellent websites which can help students to decide what type of career would be right for them and to find information on which careers are associated with certain subjects. Also, many schools and colleges have dedicated careers advisers who will be able to help answer any questions that your son or daughter may have about choosing between different universities and courses, and how best to pursue a particular career path.
Narrowing down the choices
Once your child has decided on a subject or subjects to study at university, he/she may still be left with a large number of courses to choose between. The easiest ways for students to reduce the number of potential courses is to consider the entry requirements for each course, and to decide how close (or far!) from home that they would like to study. When trying to estimate his/her final grades your child should consider the grades that he/she have previously obtained and speak to teachers about what final grades they feel are realistic. Applicants are able to apply for up to five separate courses via UCAS, and in general it is advisable to apply to courses where the entry requirements are equivalent to or slightly above the applicants predicted grades, with maybe one or two ‘safer’ options which ask for slightly lower grades.
Comparing university courses
When it comes to choosing between courses there is a wealth of information online which can help your child to compare different courses. Both UNISTATS and Which? University publish detailed information on the relative merits of different courses and institutions based on feedback provided by current and previous students, as well as data from sources such as the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). Several national newspapers also publish annual league tables which can be found on their websites- the most prominent are The Times, The Sunday Times, and The Guardian. The results of these league tables should be interpreted carefully however as each uses different criteria, and there is no guarantee that the criteria which are being used to rank universities are the same criteria as those that are important to your child.
Finding out more about individual universities
All universities produce detailed prospectuses which are typically available either online or in print form, and your child should read carefully any prospectuses related to the courses that he/she is considering. University websites will also publish detailed course information online for each of their courses, along with ‘Key Information Set’ (KIS) data which will allow your child to easily compare the relative merits of different courses at different institutions.
Most universities hold open days during the summer months (please see the UCAS website for full details of dates), and these provide an invaluable opportunity for your child to visit universities that he/she may be interested in and will help him/her to make an informed decision about which institutions to apply to. Attending open days will allow your child to get a feel for the university environment, view the various facilities available (students union, accommodation, library etc), and find out about the extracurricular activities, societies, or sports facilities that are offered. Your child will also be able to find out more details on the specific course that he/she is interested in studying by being able to look around the department’s facilities, speak to academic staff and current students, or even participate in a sample lecture.
Please click here to view our article on making the most out of attending university open days.