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10 Questions You Must Ask When Considering Universities

Student Life

March 18, 2023

Applying to any college or university isn't easy, and it's important that you ask the right questions to ensure that you are making the best decision for you. Below, I have composed a list of what I think are the most important aspects of university to contemplate in order to make the right decision, and who you should look to for advice.

1. What course is right for me?

It's no surprise that the most important questions you should be asking are in regards to the course(s) you intend on studying. You will want to think about the course content (what the modules include), where this course could lead you, how it works alongside any other courses you plan on taking, and the workload.

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Prospectuses will include the most vital information, but it is important that you speak to current and past students of this course, as well as the professors. It is also important to remember that the course content can depend on the university, and modules may differ from place to place, so it is best that you check out each university offering this course to ensure that it will be ideal for you.

2. What is the accommodation and travel like?

You may have found a college that offers everything you want in way of courses. However, if it is not local, then you will be considering accommodation. You will spend a large amount of time in your student house or dorm, so making sure that you select the best base is a must.

Whether it be shared housing or catered student halls, it is likely that finances will be at the forefront of your mind. While student and maintenance loans cover some bills, it is likely that you will be paying monthly/weekly out of your own pocket. In order to get the best deal, look into student accommodation well in advance—consider food bills, electricity ETC if you are renting, and the bathroom situation if you are lodging in student halls.

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On the other hand, if you are fortunate to have found a university local to you, you need to start considering how you will be traveling there each day. Will it be by train? If so, how much will that cost you per semester—and can you get a student discount?

By bus? Once again, how much will this cost and where are the bus stops situated? Most colleges will be within walking distance of a train station or bus stop, but how safe is it to walk, especially at night?

If you are driving yourself, how much will you be paying in petrol? Where can you park, if not on campus?

3. What about finance?

It is best to start looking into student finance as soon as possible. While course prices stay similar no matter where you go, accommodation can be more or less expensive depending on the university and area. Most are eligible for a student loan, and this can cover most—if not all—of your course fees.

Maintenance loans can be used to cover accommodation prices, as well as living costs. To check how much you're eligible for, you can set up a meeting with a career advisor, or look online.

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Scholarships are invaluable when it comes to financing your studies, so looking into what scholarships each school has to offer is a great way to deduct the overall costs. If you are from a disadvantaged area, or have a unique circumstance, you may be able to access extra funding! Make sure you look into every option. Student loans, grants, and maintenance loans are unlikely to cover all of your bills, especially if you are regularly going out with friends, so finding a part-time job can mean you have that extra money to experience college in all of its glory.

4. What student support is in place?

Moving away from home and taking on new responsibilities is going to be difficult, but it can be made easier by the student support provided by your college or university. Many people forget to look into student support when browsing universities, as they are unaware as to how valuable that extra help can be. Whether you have worries regarding your course, living situation, money problems, or friendships, student support hubs can offer guidance as well as just an ear to listen.

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Most colleges have something like this in place, but on that rare occasion that yours does not, remember that there are alternative methods to finding support, such as online, in-person counselors, or help-lines. Phone calls to home can bring comfort, so remember to stay in contact with loved ones and reach out to friends. Your professors will be more than happy to hear out any concerns you may have, also.

5. What is student life like?

They say your student years are the best years of your life. There is no greater time to explore cities, drink with friends, explore new sports and hobbies, or just go for a quiet brunch. In order to get a good idea of student life at your university or college of interest, you should speak to current students.

If you didn't get a chance to speak to them on an open day, don't fret; on most college websites, there are links to chat with current students. There are also online platforms that allow you to converse with students, and ask anything you please, whether it be about a specific course or student life.

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In my search for the right university, I have found that social media has proven invaluable in supplying me with extra insight into what to expect. Searching by hashtags, such as ('collegename' studentlife'), can provide you with extra information, pictures, videos, and recommendations in regards to the best places to visit as a student and the liveliness of the local clubs.

6. Will I have the opportunity to study abroad?

Many courses offer the chance to travel abroad as an exchange student or on a work placement. If you are lucky enough to have access to this opportunity, you must consider funding (are there loans/grants that can cover this, how will you afford accommodation while you live there, as well as living and travel costs). Your course may offer you a range of destinations to choose from.

This often includes European countries such as Germany, France, Italy and Spain, Asian countries such as Thailand or Japan, or Canada. My only advice when choosing your destination is to take into consideration where you would feel most comfortable, and where your interests lie.

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The benefits of studying abroad are endless—it looks amazing on a CV, and can offer you unique experiences. You learn about differing cultures, improve language skills, and most importantly, you build your confidence. There is nothing quite like spending a year away from everything you have ever known to prove just how invincible and resilient you really are.

7. What extracurriculors and societies can I join?

A key feature of colleges and universities is the clubs and societies they have to offer. Joining societies is a great way to make new friends, particularly if it is your first year—and there is a society for everyone. In my search, I came across beekeeping, bird-watching, feminism and water sport societies, and these are just a few of the many societies offered to students. Most universities will allow you to join a sports club, whether you have experience or not, and many societies include outings and fun events.

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You can learn key skills through clubs and societies, as well as try something new. Most colleges have a list of their extracurriculors on their webpage or within their prospectus. The good thing is, if you join a society and decide it is not for you, you can go find something else!

8. Will I be able to find part-time work?

Much of your finances will come out of your own pocket, and having a part-time job will make it easier to afford living costs as well as nights out. However, it is easier to find part-time work in some areas than in others, so it is important that you look into the local area. Is it popular with local tourists?

Does it have a large population? If this is the case, then it is likely that there will be job opportunities within retail and hospitality.

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In order to get the best advice regarding part-time work, speak to current students! On top of that, many universities have support in place to help you find a part-time job, as well as provide jobs themselves, so send emails in advance. Remember, finding part-time jobs is competitive, especially if there are not many on offer, so don't leave it to the last minute.

9. What facilities does this university have to offer?

Into literature? You may be after multiple grand libraries. Passionate about a sport? Perhaps you want to know what this university offers in regards to sports facilities. A campus tour is the perfect opportunity to discover what the college has to offer, as well as ask questions regarding gym memberships, library opening times, etc. It is likely that you will be spending the next four years, if not more, at this campus, so having everything you need in one place goes a long way in making the experience much more enjoyable. It is also helpful in spicing up your study locations and meeting new people.

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10. How will this college support me in the future?

My final point: it is important to know the statistics regarding employment rates, and their process for graduates. Do they consider providing support and guidance? Will they continue to aid you in finding the right career path?

Some colleges and universities continue to provide their students with support two years after graduation, and students can take comfort knowing that familiar people have their backs and can offer guidance in many areas. The support doesn't have to end at graduation. Ask students and staff about after-graduation plans and processes to ensure that you don't find yourself without the support you need.

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I hope this article has been useful in guiding you to ask important questions at college open days. It is helpful to create a list of questions in preparation for college visits so that you don't leave anything out, and remember that if you have any questions afterwards, you can always get in contact with the college online.

Erin Molyneux

Writer since Jan, 2023 · 3 published articles

Erin is a year 12 student (Grade 11), who loves reading, writing and learning new things. She enjoys projects and volunteering for charities. Erin hopes to go into editing or publishing, but for now she is building her experience by writing for Teenmag, arc-reading, beta-reading and studying A-Level English Literature and Language.