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University for Parents: Guide to Choosing a Program

University for Parents: Guide to Choosing a Program main image

Making sure your child finds a course that best matches her/his own interests, aims and learning style is essential to ensure s/he really gets the most out of university.

So, you’ve narrowed down a list of possibilities – universities in locations that your child would like to study in, and that you know have a good reputation in the subject s/he wants to study.

What next? How can you help your child reach a final decision that you both feel confident about?

Well, the next stage is to spend some time researching the courses offered at each of your shortlisted universities.

When deciding which program best suits your child, points to consider include:

1. Content

Look through the course outline of compulsory and optional modules. Does your child seem excited about at least some of the subjects covered? Is there a topic that you know they’re interested in that doesn’t seem to be covered?

If in doubt, contact the university department to check; subjects may be listed under different titles, or available as part of an optional module.

2. Teaching

How will the course be delivered, and what kind of support will your child receive? You want to ensure that s/he will be fully challenged, and also receive a good level of support in order to achieve her/his full potential.

This will vary depending on the subject, and on what you know about your child. Maybe you know s/he will thrive in smaller groups, or when learning through practical work. Or maybe you know s/he is really excited about opportunities to go on field trips, or even to attend lectures given by a particular academic.

3. Assessment

How will your child be assessed? This will usually be some combination of exams and various types of coursework. Assessment may be spread out across the entire program, or come mostly at the end of the course. Again, consider whether the structure will allow your child to reach their full potential.

4. Professional preparation

You may also want to consider how well the course will prepare your child for her/his future career.

If s/he has an idea of what kind of job they’d like to do, this is fairly simple – you just need to check that there are at least some modules of relevance to their desired role.

University departments sometimes publish information about the types of role their graduates go on to. And if possible, you could also seek advice from someone already in the profession your child has in mind, to see which program they think would be the best preparation.

In some cases, courses may include built-in opportunities to gain work experience, either for an entire year or a shorter period. If the program itself doesn’t offer this, the careers service may – you could contact them to find out what professional contacts they have within your child’s field of interest.

Finally, if your child is still open minded about her/his future career, then it may simply be important for them to have the opportunity to try out different things. So a more flexible course with opportunities to gain a wide range of transferable skills could work for them.

5. Admissions criteria

Last but certainly not least, check the admissions requirements for the program, and make sure your child has a reasonable chance of meeting them. Of course it’s definitely worth aiming high, but you don’t want her/him to be left disappointed, so it’s a good policy to apply to several programs with a range of entry requirements.

This point also means looking at deadlines and making sure your child has sufficient time to prepare. However, if you have found the perfect course, then it may be worth waiting for the next round of applications.

After all, a gap year certainly isn’t the worst thing that could happen, if it means giving your child the best chance of getting a place on her/his best-fit program.

Written by Staff W.

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