When you know what you would like to study but aren’t sure about where you’d like to be, choosing a university to apply to can be a difficult decision to make. The decision becomes even more difficult when you are considering the country you would like to study in, too.
There are, however, options that make it easier. For instance, you could check the university league tables for the specific subject you are interested in or speak to previous graduates who studied that subject area. In addition, speaking to recent graduates will give you an idea of the types of learning that you will be exposed to as well as the workload expected of you.
When you are particularly dedicated to an area of study, you want to pick the best university for your chosen subject. Not only will it look better on your future CV, but choosing the best university ensures you are getting the finest available education on your preferred subject.
There are websites available that offer university ranking by subject and provide an in-depth look at each of the institutions. Certain website ranking tables can be filtered down by additional fields like study level, your subject of interest and your preferred country of study. In some cases, you can even compare up to four different universities or institutions of learning.
Comparing Universities and Colleges
Your choice of university should be based on the university’s ability at the specific subject. For instance, the top five educational institutions across the world for 2019 are as follows:
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) [USA]
- Stanford University [USA]
- Harvard University [USA]
- California Institute of Technology [USA]
- University of Oxford [UK]
However, if you were choosing to study Architecture, for example, the university world rankings by subject for 2018 change to:
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) [USA]
- University College London [UK]
- Delft University of Technology [Netherlands]
- ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology [Switzerland]
- University of California, Berkeley [USA]
As you can see, this is quite a different line-up to the list of top universities overall. Harvard and the University of Cambridge do go on to appear in the top ten, but they can’t beat the above universities in that specific area of study.
It’s recommended that when prospective students are looking at universities they make an initial list of 15-20 universities that they would be happy to study at. Then, they can break down this list into preferred universities based on stricter criteria, such as the size of the student population or the available research opportunities that the institute may offer, for example.
The Finer Details of the University
Students deciding where to study will need to make their university ranking a priority. However, there are further details to consider. Should you be an active student, you’ll want to know if there are opportunities for activities on campus or in the surrounding area, such as a fitness club, exercise classes or student gyms.
If your personal interests lie in culture, you may want to choose a university in an historic town. Take, for example, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), founded in 1861 and located in the busy area of Cambridge, Massachusetts. The city is full of life, but once you’ve left the city area, students may find the surroundings pale in comparison to the vibrancy of city life.
On the other hand, compare this to the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, founded in 1209 and holding the title of one of the oldest universities in the world. Surrounded by a wealth of history and culture and with excellent transport connections to the rest of the UK and Europe, you’ve got the perfect opportunity to explore beyond the city.
Applying to university isn’t just about the tuition costs. Students will need to pay close attention to the cost of living in their chosen areas. If student loans are available, will they be able to reasonably cover both tuition and living costs or will students need to take on part-time work while they study, which can be a distraction from learning?
Loans may take into account the living area, but it should be something that students shouldn’t assume will always be the case. Cambridge, England, is a much more expensive area than other parts of the country, for instance, and students may need to take on paid work to cover all their costs. Of course, this shouldn’t be considered as a deterrent because most universities will offer support and financial advice for students. Regardless, it is still an important point to consider.
The Application Process
Universities can have different application processes depending on their ranking and country of location. Applying to a prestigious university will often include an admissions test or tests, such as the SAT or ACT in America or the SAQ in the UK.
In addition, you may need to pay an application fee. Application fees vary depending on the university in question, so it’s best to research and be prepared when you come to make your application.
Students applying to certain areas of study will be expected to have studied certain facilitating subjects in order to be successful in their application. Facilitating subjects are a requirement for certain courses. For example, if you are studying Biological Sciences, universities will be looking for A grades in Biology and Chemistry but could also include Physics and Maths.
In the UK, the Russell Group is the representative for the top twenty-four leading universities across the country. Russell Group universities facilitating subjects include:
- Languages (modern and classical)
For these top UK universities, students will be expected to have at least one A grade across these subjects but more often than not, will only accept students who have a minimum of three A grades across the facilitating subjects.
However, this isn’t applicable across all subjects. For instance, a Psychology degree doesn’t necessarily require a Psychology A-Level – possibly due to the fact that it’s not always available as an A-Level in certain schools or colleges.
Preparing to Apply to University
If you are a student preparing to apply to a prestigious university and you want to make your application the very best, you could consider using an education concierge service.
Not only can we assist in areas such as tutoring and helping students seek suitable extracurricular enhancement, but our service is perfect for students wishing to apply to overseas institutes of education and looking for extra help to get their application in line with the prospective university’s expectations.
Should you still be unsure of the best university to pick but you’ve narrowed it down to a few, consider approaching some of your preferred universities for guidance or advice. Educational institutions want the best for their students and prospective students so will be happy to answer any queries or concerns you may have.
For the first time, your educational potential is fully within your control and by ensuring you’ve got all the relevant information regarding your options, you stand the best chance of making a well-informed decision about your future.