How can I choose my course?

Choosing the right course for you can make it easier to cope with student life. Higher education is a fantastic opportunity for new experiences; however, the demands of student life can be a challenge for all.

Full-time, part-time or online?

Some subjects and some universities will only offer full-time courses; however, universities are becoming increasingly flexible. If you do not think the full-time route is for you, there are other options. Many universities offer part-time courses or online options.

Benefits Challenges
Full-time There may be:

  • More support from other students and tutors
  • More structure to help keep you motivated
  • This could be a new and different environment for you
  • The course may be less flexible
  • You may be less able to set your own pace of study
Part-Time This could help you:

  • Work alongside your studies
  • Manage other responsibilities
  • Have time for medical appointments
  • The course will usually take longer to complete
  • It may be difficult to concentrate on your studies if you are juggling other priorities
  • You do not have to live near or travel to the university very often.
  • You maybe able to complete work at your own pace
  • You may need to be more self-motivated to complete your work
  • It may be harder to meet course-mates, which could leave you feeling isolated

How will I study?

Different courses will require you to do different kinds of work. It is useful to think about what kind of work you would like to do in your course.

  • Exams, coursework or presentations? While many courses focus on exams, some will assess your work through coursework and placements. This may be helpful if you find dealing with the pressure of exams very challenging
  • Is there a year abroad? This usually involves spending a year living in another country. You might like the idea of getting to travel with some structures of university in place to support you, or you may find it hard to move away from your support network and any treatment you are receiving
  • Is there a work placement? This may be essential for some vocational courses e.g. teaching, medicine, nursing. You might find this a good opportunity to get used to a working environment, or you may find the change more difficult to manage
  • How many contact hours are there? Courses vary in the number of contact hours they provide. A high number of contact hours can feel demanding, but courses with few contact hours place a high responsibility on you to structure your own independent study

Some practical courses can be difficult to cope with if you suffer from certain mental health problems such as anxiety.

“Studying Journalism, which requires me to interview people, has been really difficult.”

Where do I want to live?

Deciding where to live during your course can make a big difference to how you find your student experience. Here are some useful things to consider:

  • Do I want to stay at home? Staying at home may provide more support if you have an established support network, and make it easier to continue to get any treatment you’re currently receiving
  • Do I want to move away? This might be necessary to study at your preferred university, and it might make it easier for you to engage with all aspects of university life
  • Is it easy to travel home from university? Being able to travel home easily could help you take short breaks if you are feeling homesick or the university environment is challenging

What sort of university do I want?

All universities have their own atmosphere. Checking the university and Students’ Union websites, or attending an open day, can help you get a feel for this.

  • At a campus university, most buildings (including halls of residence) are close together. A campus may provide a stronger community, making it easier to meet other students, but – depending on the location – it can make it harder to access shops and other amenities
  • At a non-campus university, the buildings might be spaced out across a city. This can make it easier to access amenities, and have more of an independent life outside your university, but can also involve a longer commute or travelling between buildings
  • Larger universities with big student numbers could feel intimidating, or less personal, but they might also have more support available for students and larger Students’ Unions, providing a wider range of extracurricular activities
  • Smaller universities may specialise in certain courses and provide teaching in smaller groups, but may have fewer opportunities for socialising or offer fewer student support services

What support can I get at university or college?

The support offered by different universities and local NHS services can differ, so it’s useful to think about what kind of support you would find helpful.

  • Almost all universities provide a counselling service but can usually only provide a limited number of sessions, and they’re unlikely to offer specialised talking treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • Some universities employ a Mental Health Adviser to provide ongoing support to students with mental health problems

How can I decide?

You do not have to make any decisions on your own, as there are lots of ways to get support. You could:

  • Talk to your school careers office
  • Contact a university’s or college’s admissions office, as they will usually be able to help you consider your options and will be happy to provide more detailed guidance
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