Some top tips for choosing the right university and course

Education expert Dr Ryan Hinchey, Coordinator of College Counselling at ACS International School, with campuses in Cobham, Egham and Hillingdon, answers your questions

There are so many universities and courses to choose from. How can I help my child find the right one?

My advice to parents and students when they’re narrowing down their higher education choices is to concentrate on finding the right fit. Here are a few pointers:

• Consider your son or daughter’s learning style. Do they prefer small groups, large lectures or independent study? Find out if the courses are delivered in a way that suits their learning preference.

• Is your child an extrovert or an introvert? Extroverts may be more likely to thrive in a large university, while introverts may be better suited to a smaller campus or college setting.

• Contact time. Find out how much contact time students have with course tutors. Individual attention might be more valuable to your child than general lectures.

• Categorise the final university selection by ‘Reach’, ‘Target’ and ‘Likely’ and have one of each in your selection. Reach: where the entry requirements make it a challenge to secure a place. Target: where your son/daughter’s academic profile is similar to the average acceptance student profile. The decision may go either way. Likely: where your son and daughter is confident of achieving the university entry requirements.

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The deadline for studying at university in the UK via UCAS is January 15 2019 for most undergraduate courses. There’s a lot to consider when thinking of your son or daughter’s next steps, including apprenticeships and vocational courses.

As a university counsellor I help students successfully apply to top universities worldwide. The majority of students from our schools go to UK universities, but we look at universities in the USA or elsewhere in the world.

American universities are famous for their liberal arts approach, where you study a broad curriculum in the first year, and this can be a great opportunity to experience new things and take your time to discover what subject you really want to focus on.

UK universities are just as famous for their superb career focus and specialisation, so knowing that difference can help make some first choices, if you really can chose to study anywhere in the world.

While 98% of ACS students go on to university, there are exciting options for any student who wants to look at other routes after school.

‘Finding the right fit’ is the mantra for this route. Just looking at the different industries at show the options available. It’s important to think about what interests you or your child:

• Do they love the theatre, or have a passion for sport perhaps? Were they the kid who loved to make things or see how cars worked? Focus on industries or activities that are of interest rather than skills or subject knowledge.

• There are great career choices in every market sector, so finding an industry sector of interest really helps, as a typical interview question for an apprenticeship might be “Why do you want to work in this business?”

What happens if your son or daughter doesn’t know exactly what they want to do, or doesn’t have a favourite subject?

In this case look at broader subjects such as geography where there are many pathways within each, or consider a university with a liberal arts approach, to keep options open. While at university they will be learning general skills such as researching, presenting or collaborative learning which will all have a value in later life so the time and money will be well spent.

Sometimes even with a passion for a particular subject such as computer gaming it’s better to take a broader, but related subject at university such as computer science. This will build a wider skill set that could give more options later in life, while still allowing an individual area of interest to be developed.

Most students I meet don’t know exactly what they want to be or do. In some ways this can be harder as there are so many choices. The broader the course options in their first year after school, the more chance they have of finding the subject they prefer. Keep all options open while looking for the right fit in terms of university teaching style and location.

No two universities will offer the exact same course in any subject, so investigate as much as you can about the specifics of the course on offer.

Don’t forget to tweet your education questions to @acsintschools

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