I often liken making university choices to the experience I have of going to a vegetarian restaurant. Typically, as a vegetarian, there are usually only two things I can eat on a normal menu – then suddenly I am faced with a whole host of appetising options and I start to get a little anxious. Ultimately, I’m faced with too much choice! Although I’m in danger of trivialising things somewhat this is, to an extent, the same sense of anxiety faced by many parents and pupils when faced with the great range of universities and courses on offer around the world.
Despite the potentially daunting range of appealing university options, it is possible to identify certain key factors which can help narrow down your choices. Here are six of my top considerations to bear in mind when making your initial options list.
A range of organisations compare global universities and rank them using a variety of factors. The most prominent are run by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), Times Higher Education and US News and World report. They all use different formulas so they will produce slightly different results. There are also rankings compiled on different countries and they even offer statistics on the level of their graduates’ overall employability. Rankings are an ideal way of getting a good initial overview of what a quality institution looks like. However, I wouldn’t rely on them solely.
There is an old saying: "Form is temporary, class is permanent." This is never truer than when looking at universities. University rankings give us a 'snapshot' of how universities are currently doing, but a university’s reputation is a much more long-standing, if less easily definable, factor. Attending universities with a reputation built over decades, and sometimes centuries, is a good guarantee that a future degree will maintain its value. After all, this is the reason why US Ivy League universities, and the likes of Oxbridge and Russell Group universities in the UK, are so competitive.
Sometimes the subject or major that a pupil is looking to study will determine their university choices. This is particularly the case with certain specialist subjects. Universities such as Loughborough in the UK are well known to provide some of the best sports-related courses, whereas, Swiss universities, such as EHL, are considered to run some of the best courses in Hotel Management. It is also common for pupils applying to art, drama or music related courses to apply to specialist institutions which will purely focus on these disciplines.
Pupils often make the mistake of finalising university choices without thinking about where exactly they will be living and studying - and this means more than simply choosing which country! Pupils who revel in big cities may feel bored in the more sedate environment of a small Liberal Arts College in the US, whereas those who enjoy more one-to-one attention and a slower pace of life may be lost at universities such as NYU in New York or UCL in London. A lot of information can be gained online these days, but, ultimately, it is always best to visit the institutions themselves whenever possible.
Pupils, and particularly their parents, quickly find out university is not cheap. However, a careful review of current fees, living costs and scholarship opportunities can help families to minimise these costs. It can also be a key factor when pupils decide between universities. Often the fees a university student will pay are determined by their passport, with lower fees, or more generous financial aid, available to nationals of a particular country. That said, there are clearly some countries which provide outstanding value for money. The Netherlands, for example, have world-class universities, such as the University of Amsterdam, but also charge much lower tuition fees compared to the US and UK.
As much as parents won’t want to accept this – particularly as they stare at their dwindling bank balance – university is about more than studying! For most undergraduate students, this is their first opportunity to ‘stand on their own two feet’ and the less definable ‘student experience’ is likely to live long in their memory. Pupils will make lifelong friends, secure excellent future networking contacts and have opportunities to become involved in range of unique activities for the first, and sometimes only, time in their life. Although being president of the university quidditch team might not be the first thing on a graduate CV, experience tells us that students often benefit as much from the wider activities that university-life offers than any specific lectures. The numerous actors and comedians who have emerged from the Cambridge Footlights or the informal connections that dominate in some top firms are a fitting testament to the importance of the wider university experience.
Researching your options at Wellington's Global University Fair
As this brief overview suggests, making university choices is an increasingly complex process and it is vital that pupils fully research their options. This is why I am delighted to announce that Wellington College International Shanghai will hold its first Global University Fair on March 15, 2019 from 3-5pm. With more than 120 universities representing 20 countries, this event will provide an invaluable opportunity for pupils, parents and the wider Shanghai community to engage directly with representatives from some of the top universities around the world. The fair will also include a series of presentations led by university representatives on a range of relevant topics.
Wellington invites individuals and groups interested in attending our Global University Fair to register for attendance.
To secure your tickets, click here or scan the QR code below: