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Choosing a course, and university or college

Choosing a course, and university or college

The success that a student has in HE, and how much they enjoy the overall experience, is largely influenced by what and where they study.

What to look for in a course

Ultimately, those thinking about what to study should consider the subjects they enjoy and where certain courses could lead.

Here are some of the common questions and answers relating to HE courses:

Q. Are all courses structured and delivered in the same way?

Courses can vary in terms of what content is covered and the way it’s delivered. Much of the content will be delivered through lectures, seminars and workshops, but many ‘hands on’ courses will have varying amounts of fieldwork or lab work.

Q. What if my child wants to study more than one subject?

Some institutions allow students to study two subjects at degree level. These courses are known as joint (or combined honours) degrees. In these cases, the two subjects will be ones that complement each other, such as Business with Spanish, or Psychology with Criminology.

Q Are all courses assessed in the same way?

Most courses will adopt a range of assessment techniques, including exams, assignments, presentations and reports. Students might also be assessed on practical work conducted in laboratories or in the field. If this information isn’t stated on an HEI’s website, email or call them to find out.

Q. My child wants to study in higher education, but can’t decide on a course. What should they do?

Some courses are more vocational than others, such as, nursing, dentistry, architecture, and engineering. These courses are designed to prepare students for specific careers as opposed to courses with a more academic focus. Vocational routes are a good option for those who know what career they want to enter into, as they are designed to prepare students for specific careers. However, for those who want to keep their options open, they could consider a more general course – for example, mathematics, sociology, psychology, geography etc.

Q. How can I find out what a university or college is really like?

The best way to find out what an HEI is really like is to hear from past or current students. Websites such as thestudentroom.co.uk and thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk provide a great platform for this. You’ll also get the chance to speak to current students if you attend open days.

Where to study

Some students decide to study locally as they are able to save money on accommodation and other living costs by staying at home. However, many students use HE as a chance to leave home for the first time and experience living in a different environment from what they’re used to.

For many students, living in halls of residence or shared accommodation is a major part of the student experience as it provides the opportunity to meet new people and develop independence.

A typical room in halls of residence

For holiday periods, and a variety of other reasons, many students will return home, so they should consider the distance that they will need to travel and what the transport links are like between their hometown and place of study.


Top tip!
Attending more than one open day will allow your child to make comparisons and be sure that they are making the right decision about the course and institution.


Open days

Before making any decision on where to study, attending an open day is a great way to get a feel for a place and to find out more about the course and facilities. They also provide the opportunity to tour the campus and speak to current students and staff.

It’s normal for parents or carers to attend open days with their children – in fact it’s encouraged. By doing so, you’ll be well placed to support your child in making the decision of where to study. It can also put your mind at rest, as once they move away, you’ll be able to visualise their new surroundings.


Next: UCAS and the application process

Previous: Your child’s options – things to think about

Home: Parents Area

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