Gut feeling v course quality(21 Posts)
We're starting to visit Unis now for dd, who is in year 12. Last week we visited Lincoln - it was a lovely day, Lincoln was gorgeous, the sun shone, we all enjoyed visiting the Uni, and learned a lot about her chosen subject. Today we visited Bangor, the course is probably more rigorous, the facilities better for her subject - but we just didn't get that "wow" factor, nothing we could put our fingers on. We've got 4 more to visit and plenty of time, I'm just wondering - have you chosen based on pure logic and course content, or did you let your gut feeling about the university make the decision for you?
Oh, i should add, dh and I didn't go to university, so we have no background info of our own to contribute.
Well I went alone to all the open days. My parents left it completely to me and my own gut feeling as to where I wanted to go. What does your DD feel about both of them ?
dd and I both came away with the same feeling yesterday at Bangor - just oddly disappointed that we hadn't enjoyed it more, but not knowing why. And we all loved Lincoln, the whole place.
I would visit a couple of more if you can. I visited 4 before I made my choice (only 5) did the course and was very happy throughout my time. My sister only visited 2 hated one went to the other with hindsight wishes she had looked at more.
IMO there is no set checklist for the 'right' uni. For some students it will be the particular course, for others feeling at 'home' is a more important element.
Think about the things that are important in a uni for your DD, what does she wants from HE? It might be particular elements within the course, the size of the uni or type of campus, links to employers or industrial placements etc etc. Then assess teach uni in relation to all of these once you have visited them all.
Next year, if it comes to a difficult decision as to which should be her firm choice, don't be afraid to go back. This could be an official visit (if no more open days, contact the admissions team and ask to visit) or just turn up wander around. Sometimes you get a much better sense of what a university feels like, when they are not on the best open day behaviour!
DS went to Open Days alone and his gut feeling turned into his first choice. He is now a 2nd year and couldn't be happier. He does know that one of his choices, in particular, would have been the "better" option in that it was further up the rankings and has a great rep but he didn't feel comfortable there. Whether that was the right decision who can say but he is happy and loving his course. Probably doesn't help!
There was definitely an element of gut feeling for both my DDs - they did all the research about the course and campus v city beforehand but the final decision was more down how they felt on the open day (and the post application day when they had their offers). DD1 is in her 4th year and DD2 her 2nd and they both love their universities and the courses.
I always tell prospective applicants that they need to visit a number of universities (and sometimes it is much better that they go alone!) and use them to work out what they're looking for.
But you need to be analytical. Reading the OP I wonder whether it's to do with the sunshine ...? Because in my field, Lincoln wouldn't be a place to aspire to in terms of teaching, curriculum, or research (and research feeds the curriculum & teaching). Few innovators there ...
League tables are not hugely reliable, unless you know how to understand the statistics on which they're based and also understand that they're based on stats up to 2 years ago.
So, other kinds of questions that might be useful, and will help your DC ANALYSE her gut feeling:
* Does she want a city campus or a green field campus?
* Does she want large town, city, small town?
* What sort of sporting facilities will she like? Remember that university is often a chance to get away from dreary awful school team sports, to find a far greater variety of physical pursuits. And a healthy mind in a healthy body is a very important principle (I always advise students on the brink of depression that they must prioritise a congenial form of physical exercise as part of a healthy mental health regime).
* Similarly, what sorts of cultural pursuits does she want? What new experiences is she ambitious to try?
* Generally, what are the opportunties for extra-curricular activities which are positive & productive? Volunteering, campus newspaper, radio station etc etc. Often this sort of thing will get you a job post-graduation. It did for me.
* What sorts of jobs have graduates gone into? The HESA employability stats are a bit tricky here: they measure what percentage of graduates are in "graduate-level" employment, or further post-graduate education (eg PGCE, Law articles) 6 months after graduating. This might be relevant for her subject, but it might not. See where alumni are.
* what is the quality of the physical teaching surroundings?
* What is the quality of [academic] staff offices? (Do staff have individual offices?)
* What is the size, extent & quality of the Library? What access to the [very very expensive] electronic resources is there for her subject?
* What is the size, condition & feel of the Student Union? Have a look at the student union/guild website to get a sense of what services and support they offer & how they support productive extra-curricular activities.
* A good Open Day should give intending applicants a chance to speak to current students. What do the say about staff support, workloads, etc etc?
What are your DD's deal breakers? But you need to see more than two places, and you need to discount the weather! Particularly as most of the University year is winter ...
Oh, and forgot to add:
any applicant should pay close attention to the information given about syllabus and curriculum.
At my place we do a section in our presentation giving a good outline (not too detailed, but pretty specific) of the modules both Joint and Single Honours will be studying. That information is on our website as well.
And we still have First Years complaining "I didn't know we'd be doing that ..." or Joint Hons students feeling "cheated" because they only do half our course. Well, yes, they only do half our course, because they do the other half in their other subject
So your DD should pay close attention to the information about curriculum, and maybe think of the ways that she learns, and how each course will stretch her -- take her out of her comfort zone, as well as continue in ways she's familiar with.
Some elements of gut feeling are important. For me, part of my choice was based on the amount of greenery, parks, whether the town was attractive and pedestrian friendly, the size of the town. Those factors make a difference to whether I enjoy living somewhere.
But try to make sure you're not basing it on whether it was sunny (unless average weather patterns for lincoln and bangor are dramatically different!), or on whether you had a particularly good student tour guide.
There's often a chance to visit again or go there for an interview after you apply, if you decide it makes the shortlist but can't quite decide.
In this climate i would pick the course with the better reputation and facilities as it would be the one most likely to lead to a job. That's what i did.
Do draw your DD's attention to what's actually on the course. DS is in his first year doing joint honours and a huge number have dropped out of one half because they did no research and thought the subject would be an extension of their A level studies. The modules and reading list make it quite clear this isn't the case.
We weren't asked for any parental input with regard to location, or we'd have picked the city with the cheapest student housing, all things being equal. Worth thinking about anyway.
DS is in his first year doing joint honours and a huge number have dropped out of one half because they did no research and thought the subject would be an extension of their A level studies. The modules and reading list make it quite clear this isn't the case.
This!!!! Really, really important -- advise your DD to pay attention to course details, and ask about things like typical modes of assessment, teaching modes, and the actual subjects of actual modules. The basic stuff, but it's funny how lots of applicants don't pay attention to it ...
This information is usually given to students (well certainly at my place) on Visit Days, and then again on interview days (we still interview), and should also be there in mind-numbing detail on Departmental websites.
You're worrying me now. ds is in Yr12 - are we supposed to be looking round places ?????
Most open days are in the summer of year12 after AS exams and in the Autumn.We had an information evening in the Spring of year12 at school where they explained how the system worked and gave us a rough timetable .
BackforGood I teach a popular subject at an RG university and we are getting a steady trickle of Yr12 visitors this week - people going on a half-term trip that includes checking out a few universities. But we'd expect most of our prospective applicants to come and look us over when we hold our visit days next summer. Not looking round now won't place your ds at a disadvantage.
Phew - that's what I'd thought, but then, you know, you start having doubts
We were at Bangor on Saturday too . Impressed with the teaching staff in the School of Ocean Studies but didn't get an overall wow factor.
I went to Bangor Uni so if you want any advice on the realities of the place feel free to ask. It is about 8 years since I was there though. It is very small, and the arse end of nowhere! But when I went it was January, it was a sunny day but there was snow on the mountains. And that is how I ended up at Bangor! (which is good because I met DH and my best friend there!)
"This!!!! Really, really important -- advise your DD to pay attention to course details, and ask about things like typical modes of assessment, teaching modes, and the actual subjects of actual modules. The basic stuff, but it's funny how lots of applicants don't pay attention to it " It's hard if you are going it alone a bit though with parents who haven't been through uni and don't really understand.
DD (Year 13 now) went alone to 3 unis in the summer (then we ran out of money!) and has stuck with two of them being top choices. (So much so, that her "insurance" choices are former polys in the same cities as her RG group top choices.) The third place she visited didn't make it to her final choice, because she just wasn't "feeling" it.
I chose my uni firstly on the basis of the course, and then when I visited it, it just felt right. I felt totally vindicated when I turned up on the first day and found that there were about 3 or 4 people on my course who had had offers from my first choice uni (I got rejected!), but had chosen our course instead.
But back in our day I swear nobody I knew went on open days! The first time we got the chance to see the places we'd chosen were if we got invited for interview. We relied on word-of-mouth from friends in the years above .
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