When you’re deciding what to do after college or sixth form, or if you are considering returning to education after time spent in work or raising a family, there are a great many things to take into consideration. The sheer number of higher education courses on offer from different institutions can seem bewildering, as can the range of qualifications that they lead to. How do you go about choosing the best course for you?
The first thing to think about is where your interests lie. What are you interested in? What do you spend your time doing? A higher education course represents a considerable investment in terms of time. You will be committing yourself to several years of studying and hard work in your chosen area, so it makes sense to choose to study something that you’re interested in. If you don’t enjoy studying it, you won’t enjoy working at it, so you need to make sure that your chosen area of study is suited to you.
Another thing to consider is the kind of qualification that you will receive at the end of your course. There are many kinds of qualifications available now – do you want to study for a conventional BA or BSc? Or would an HND or a Higher BTEC qualification be more suitable? Different courses offer different advantages. Some courses are more practical, some are more project-based and others are more research-oriented. Some courses have work experience or internships built into them, while others are more traditionally academic. Different courses offer different levels of qualification, some of which are more flexible than others. A Higher BTEC, for example, is the equivalent of a BA or BSc, but you can study all the way to Level 6 or stop after Level 4 or 5 – the choice is yours.
Money is also an issue, at least for most of us! It’s not just course fees you need to consider. Higher education courses cost a lot, so you need to get value for your money. You should be thinking about transport costs, the amount of time and money you will have to spend travelling and whether the accommodation is affordable. Are there grants, scholarships or bursaries available to help you? Is the college you’ve chosen close to your home town? A Higher Education College might be a more financially viable option for you than a traditional university, particularly if the courses offered are equivalent to university qualifications.
You should also take a good look at the premises of a college or university. If you have a car, make sure that it has adequate car parking – if you don’t have a car, you’ll need to be confident that it is accessible by public transport. You need to be confident that the department that offers your course is well resourced and that the library will have the texts that you need.
It’s a lot to think about, but it’s worth taking your time over a decision as important as this.