How to research any university in the world

Posted a month ago

Before you launch headlong into your final school exams, let’s get one thing straight.

Whatever comes after school is more important than whatever you’re doing at school.

But looking around at students in their final years of high school, you’d be forgiven for thinking that a student’s world begins or ends with the final exam scores such is the pressure that they’re under.

As a result, student research into what comes after school often takes a distant back seat to study. Recent research shows students think they’ve ‘done it all’ after going along to a few University Open Days, chatting to an older cousin or two and scanning a few online forums.

This doesn’t really sound like how to make a decision on where you’ll spend the next 3-4 years. It more sounds like how you decide where to go out for coffee!

Doing proper research is key if you want to avoid dropping out of university in the future. Check out the strategies below to effectively research colleges you may be interested in!

Strategy 1

Is college actually your best path? Many students default to college because it’s seen as the done thing or delays the reality of stepping into the real world. College is not for everyone. Remember, you’re committing yourself to three or four years of further study at a minimum and it doesn’t get any easier after Year 12. Make sure you know this is what you want.

Strategy 2

Get your priorities straight! So many students are fixated on working towards a final exam score that they forget what goal course or university they’re even working towards. As one student said, we’re in the habit of working hard for a score and then falling into a university and course that we barely know. Dedicate some time each week to university research.

Strategy 3

Think bigger than your course. Many students become fixated on a course and give little thought to the college itself. Not all universities are created equal and each are aiming to build a unique reputation. Understanding what you want to get from your university experience is critical to help you identify a college you’ll actually enjoy being at for the next 3-4 years! Do you want a college with awesome sport facilities? Maybe your focus is on academics and research? Maybe you want small class sizes and a party atmosphere? Whatever it is, list them out and don’t limit your search to the local universities. Overseas universities accept high school marks from around the world!

Strategy 4

Get good at online research. University Open Days and career expos are great but when you speak to a rep, they’re naturally giving a bias view. At a bare minimum, ranking websites should be on your list. Some popular ones are QS World Rankings and Times Higher Education. If you’re looking specifically at US Colleges, then check out US News rankings or Big Future.

Strategy 5

Know your final cost! Everyone thinks that local universities will be the cheapest option - wrong! Some universities around the world offer generous scholarships and financial support. Don’t rule any universities out just because of what you’ve heard from people who aren’t in the know. Most universities are up-front about their final costs and any scholarships or financial aid they have on offer.

Strategy 6

Are graduates getting jobs? In a fast moving digital economy, the job market is constantly shifting. Don’t take it for granted that because you’re doing a competitive entry course, that you’re guaranteed a job after. Before you commit to a course, double check each the industry connections, employability rate and average graduate salary for the universities you’re looking at. And remember, not all universities are created equal! For example, five years after male students graduate from economics, Oxford University students make almost 40% more than their counterparts from Cambridge!

Strategy 7

It's not just a degree. If you think college is all about just getting a degree, you can’t be more wrong! University is your first real opportunity to ‘find your tribe’. Like-minded people who will support and inspire you. Make sure you look into the alumni clubs of universities. How engaged are they? Can they help get you a job? How often do they meet?

Strategy 8

Follow universities on social media! This sounds basic but you can get a sense of the culture and ethos of a university by their social media channels. Things to keep an eye out for include projects they’re working on that might benefit you in years to come, research they produce and guest speakers they have come on campus.

How NOT To Make Your Future Decision...

While the above strategies are great, there are some strategies to avoid (or to put low on the priority list) when deciding your future pathway.

Here’s a few to watch out for:

  1. Just going where your friends go. When you don’t know exactly what you want to do and you’re up to your eyeballs in study, it’s easy to just follow the lead of those few friends who are 100% certain about what they want. Before you copy and paste their university applications, take them to task! Why do they really want to go there? Do they know much about the faculty and facilities? What clubs are they aiming to join? Do they know about the career prospects? Chances are, they’ll know even less than you do!

  2. Doing what your parents want you to do. Now, we know this is a controversial one and some of you will be finding your parents pushing you pretty strongly in a particular direction. Chances are, they’re pushing you towards an area they either grew up thinking is a good career (lawyers and doctors anyone?) or an area they’re familiar with so they can offer advice and support. If you’re in this situation, you need to provide a LOT of evidence as to why you’re looking to go down a different path. Look up future of work reports, employability and average graduate salary information and anything else you can get your hands on to show why you’re wanting to follow your dreams and not the dreams of your parents.

  3. Relying too much on reviews and word of mouth. We all have that one friend who has had coffee at pretty much every cafe in the city. When we ask for their coffee recommendations, we can trust it because they’ve tried a wide spectrum from great coffees to terrible coffees even if we take into account their personal tastes. When it comes to universities, it doesn’t quite work that way. Keep in mind that unless a student has studied across multiple universities (unlikely!), they have virtually nothing to compare their university experience to. Not only that, the experience can change dramatically between courses or between years with the coming and going of staff so take any reviews and word of mouth with a grain of salt.

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