Choosing the right University for you

So, it’s that time of year, exams are over (or almost over),  you’re waiting for results and the hunt for the perfect degree continues. Coming from a small rural village I had no idea what going to uni would be like so open days were a perfect opportunity to examine my chosen courses.

I knew Bradford had a good reputation in archaeology and had heard a bit about the course from a friend, however I had no clue what to expect, so I booked a place and came to have a look around. It wasn’t the first university I had visited but I think it was the best, the atmosphere was relaxed and everyone was willing to talk and try and put me at ease. I didn’t go to the finance and student life seminars as they don’t vary between universities but you do need to go to them at least once.

In the archaeology building students and family had a brief talk about the course then were split off into groups to tour the building. We were then shown to the student common room for an informal chat with the lecturers. At this point I was A) totally disorientated as the building is like a maze and b) a little shell shocked but after chatting to the lecturers about archaeology I relaxed enough to ask questions about the course, things like coursework loads and field work, trips out ect ect, you name it I asked about it.

There is only a small amount of advice I can give as every bodies experience when visiting a university will be different, things I liked may be elements that you aren’t looking for from a university.

  • Be prepared, have a look at the prospectus before you go, read up on the modules and ask questions about them.
  • I found I often forgot what I wanted to ask so take a list (I’ll post some example questions at the bottom).
  • Compare to the other universities you have been to, courses, lecturer interests, availability of a placement year, overall experience and anything else you can think of.
  • I think lastly, talk to the students that will be around, they are there to help and will give you an honest answer.

After talking to the staff and students I was sure that it was the course for me, the amount of field work was right and I liked the modules that were on offer. All the students I talked to seemed really enthusiastic about their course.  You need to always keep in mind this is where you may be spending 3/4 years of intensive study. You need to be sure, do you like what they have to offer? If you know nothing of the subject ask about what the modules involve. Do they sound interesting? Would you rather spend more time in the library researching or in the lab? If you don’t get on well with exams how many will you have to take?

It was a lot to take in for me, I’m not used to cities or so many people but the staff in the archaeology department were enthusiastic and wanted to talk and encourage. It boosted my confidence and i felt that if a couple of hours chat could leave me feeling so positive. How would I feel after three years of studying with them? I can tell you so far I have enjoyed every moment I truly chose the perfect place for me.

I will conclude, as promised, with a few questions that you may want to ask staff and students about the course, most will be related to archaeology but can be altered for other courses.

  • How is this course assessed? (i.e course work, presentations or exams)
  • How much coursework should I expect?
  • Does the course involve much lab work?
  • How does the marking structure work? (it is quite different from A-levels)
  • Are the staff willing to help me with coursework if I am struggling?
  • Is the course suitable for a beginner in archaeology? (can be applied to any subject)
  • What are the advantages of taking the placement year that you offer?
  • Do any of the modules offer field trips?
  • How does the field work module work?
  • If I decide I don’t want to go into archaeology what other professions will accept my degree?
  • Is the course theory or practically based?

These are just a small selection of things you may want to know. There are countless lists of questions online so if you are stuck just Google “what to ask on university visits” and loads will come up.