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Tips for Choosing your University

Wed, 03/18/2020 Zhou Mei An
Tips for Choosing your University

Applying for the scholarship doesn’t end at the BrightSparks portal. We hope you have been giving some attention to not just which scholarships you wish to aim for, but also, which university you want to go to.

It’s a difficult decision. The Straits Times has already come up with a list of questions to ask yourself.

But if you found the article a little wordy, or perhaps are under a time crunch as your submit those scholarship applications, we’ve summarised things below.

These five areas must be researched before you make any decisions. 

1.     University ranking

BrightSparks Scholarship & Higher Education Survey 2019 showed that when asked to rate the factors that would affect their choice of institution, students placed the most emphasis on the recognition of their certificate. From there, most JC/IB students felt that a degree from NUS was the most recognised, and similarly selected it as their most desirable scholarship organisation.

It goes to show how important a university’s ranking is. It serves as a guarantee of the university’s quality and ability as a teaching institution.

We recommend a search through different university rankings to get some idea of where you would like to go. Remember that straightforward “Best University Rankings” aren’t the only ones out there. You’ll be well served by also checking out degree-specific and country-specific rankings.

2.     Course content

You probably know what you want to study, and are set to apply for universities that offer that particular degree. However, to ensure you get the best educational experience you can, check out what the various degrees offer in detail.

This refers to variations in course content and reading lists, normally available on course websites. However, if you are unsure of the direction you want to take, choose a university or a country that allows you the freedom to experiment with different subjects to help you figure out your areas of interest.

For starters, do you want to go for a single or double major? Are there interesting modules you’d like to take, or lecturers you wish to learn from? Some students also look into what internships, placements and field trips are on offer.

Research the university and speak to course counsellors to get a clear picture of these specifics.

3.     Societies and CCAs

University is not only about taking classes. A vibrant university culture is crucial to enjoying your campus life and broadening your horizons.

You may wish to follow your existing hobbies, or maybe you’re on the lookout for something new to devote your leisure time to. Scroll through the lists of societies and clubs on offer and see what you like; or look at what events and activities the student association organises.

Many universities have open houses (and sometimes even virtual ones) to allow prospective applicants to get a ‘feel’ for their campus life. Check them out!

4.     Facilities (including student accommodation)

One of my fondest memories of the University of Melbourne was its many libraries, scattered throughout campus. It seemed wherever I was, I could pop in and ensconce myself in a comfy chair with a book for a good half an hour before I headed off to my next class. 

Make a list of what facilities you need your university to have, and find places that fit the bill. For example, a night owl might look for a good café or coffeeshop to keep him or her awake during those long study sessions, while an avid swimmer would obviously have requirements regarding the pool.

Remember to look around the areas as well when searching for your requirements. While certain facilities may not be on-campus, they may be available only a short walk away.

5.     Support functions (student services, campus security, etc) 

On a practical level, it’s important to make sure you’re safe and your university has your back. Whether locally or overseas, your safety and security are of paramount importance. 

Check out what the student unions and offices have for questions on student support, financing and course materials. Learn about the university’s protocol for supporting students, and make sure you know what services are in place if you run into any difficulties.

As an aside, if you have a pre-existing mental health condition, a disability or any other additional needs, take care to be fully clear on what the university can help you with to make your learning journey as comfortable as possible.

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