University. It must seem like such a strange and weird place to you right now. There must be so many questions going through your head; Which university? What course? What about payment? And the list is endless. I must admit, it is a very daunting process. But don’t you fret because I am here to help give you the 101 on how to ask the right questions to ensure that you end up doing a course that you will enjoy, whilst also getting the most benefits.
Who Should You Ask
For the novices, those who are completely bewildered by applying for university, who haven’t even decided on a course or let alone thought of applying to a university amidst the stress of their upcoming assignments, the first place I suggest you look is on the university websites. Even having a general browse of the university websites will give you a feel of what the campus and aura of the place are. This is where you will also be able to get primary information on the possible courses and the schools which they belong to. There is a lot of valuable information listed such as who are the faculty, the history of the school and ratings from past graduates, as well as standard information into the courses such as the expected ATAR, compulsorily units, what the course is about and unit costs. This is a great point of reference as it will give you the fundamentals and give you a bit more information than the university brochures and booklets that are handed out.
If you are still unsure, wanting to know more or need clarification then the next point of call would be to ask someone. But there are so many people that you can ask! Fret not, I am here to help you out. I would start first and foremost by directly contacting the information desk at the universities, or the admin of the school of the course you are looking at. My advice would be to format an email and send it through, as they are able to give you more detailed answers than through the phone, as well this ensures that you won’t forget to ask anything! The email addresses can be found on the university websites. Regarding the questions that you need to ask and how to format them, I will explain the best approaches later. These people are the experts, they know their stuff and will able to answer all your questions. You could also do this in person at the University Open Days, which I would encourage that you go to, if you are unsure of whether university life or that campus is for you, as it will give you a practical experience into the uni life, and help you to identify if you really feel as though that uni could give you what you want. There are also links on the university websites to national surveys, showing the ratings of the universities for courses in terms of student satisfaction, learning environment and post-graduate employment. These indicators played a large role in swaying my choice of university in regard to the course that I wanted to do.
However, if you are still not satisfied then fret not my friend as there are still plenty of other options. Something that I found very useful was to talk to students or past students who wanted to do my course or was at the university that I wanted to go to. There was firstly those who came to the schools and spoke about the universities. Whilst they were informative and gave you a lot of information about the university itself, they were trying to sell the university, instead of giving an honest opinion. I mainly spoke to people who had graduated a year or so before me and were at uni, as they were able to give me an unbiased opinion of the reality of uni life as well as explain the pros and cons of the university and the course that they had chosen openly. This helped me in deciding, as it could clarify my wants, as I spoke to people who I knew wanted to do something like me, and was like me personality-wise, so I knew that if they were satisfied, I would be too.
What Questions Should You Ask
Basically, the questions that you should ask are the questions that you want the answers to. Believe me, there are NO stupid questions. The more you ask the more information people will be willing to give you, and don’t worry, you aren’t being a hindrance (it’s their jobs to help you).
When asking questions to the university staff I would recommend emailing them. It is the most succinct and efficient way. Keep the email semi-formal and to the point. I found the easiest way was to ask the questions in a dot point fashion as it is clear for them to see all your questions, and you won’t end up repeating yourself.
One of the most crucial questions that I cannot stress enough in asking is that of university fees and scholarships. What some of you may not know is that there are more scholarships than those advertised online and in the brochures. If you need any financial assistance this can help you out a lot. Also, regarding the fees, there may be different options of payment for a course, ones that you may not know about. It also may be helpful as it will give you further information as to what the form of payment entails.
If you aren’t sure what questions to ask but want to know more here are some as a starting point:
- What does the course offer?
- What is the success rate of employment of graduates in this course?
- What are some of the other opportunities that the campus has?
- Does the university offer any overseas opportunities?
- What are residents like on campus?
- How many electives am I able to take with the course?
- What are the focal points of the course?
- How easy is it to make friends?
I would also advise asking the university information desks about residence, such as the location of housing, roommates, cost, as well as the standard obligations. The information desks, for the schools, are also very helpful with regards to overseas courses and exchange programmes. If you are like me and hope to study abroad at one point in your life then the opportunities that a university offers will be a definitive factor into whether you choose to attend that university. Such questions that can be asked include:
Do you offer opportunities to study abroad?
- When in the course are these opportunities available?
- Which overseas universities are available?
- How long do the study abroad programmes go for?
- Are there any mandatory requirements to be legible for these programmes?
- Is there a selection criterion or can anyone go?
What About Alternative Routes
For those of you who are unsure of whether you will be able to get into the course that you wish with your predicted ATAR, I would also advise that you enquire about alternative routes that can get you to where you want to go. Whether this is through getting a certificate or undergraduate degree first, it is important that you scope you all the available pathways.
Enquiring about university will also enable you to see whether you are ready for the university experience or whether a university is for you. So many people are unsure of what they want to do, you may be in this position. Just asking questions and enquiring will help to clarify your feelings.
I hope that there have been some useful tips and information that will help guide you in your future enquiries and help to put you in a place where you are doing something that you want and that makes you happy.
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