Since I started to be more involved in the blogosphere, I have been a fan of Caitlin’s blog ChemGradBoom. You should definitively check it out! One thing I particularly like about her blog is that she discusses college and grad school. While a lot of bloggers discuss their college times, it’s great to see a fellow postgrad student discussing her experiences, etc. It was interesting to finally come across a lifestyle blog that discusses that huge part of my life. While I am not a postgrad anymore, as I graduated in November, I thought it would be interesting to reflect on my past experiences as a postgrad. For that reason, I am starting a series on college/grad school. I am, after all, done my afternoon tea series and need to find a new thing to focus on 😉
To start this blog series I thought I would discuss the importance of choosing the right university. This obviously concerns both undergraduate and postgraduate students.
Let’s start with a universal truth: you don’t have to know, at age 18, what you want to do when you grow up.
Now that this has been established, let’s get down to business.
– If you do know exactly what you want to major in, then perhaps choosing a uni that offers a degree in 3 years instead of 4 could be something to think about coughenglishuniversitiescough
– If you don’t know yet, then perhaps it would be good to look for a uni where you can take four years to graduate (or more!) and where in your first and second year you can take various classes to figure out exactly what you like and want to do.
Here are some other questions that are worth asking while you’re making your choice:
– Do you want to stay close to home or not? Which one is better for you? That is a very important question to think about. I wanted to leave home when I was 17, but a counsellor advised me to stay in Montreal. While I regret not taking the opportunity to go experience life away, I think it was the best choice as I was about to take a major leap from a French institution to an English one. Staying in the bilingual city of Montreal was the best choice for me at that point. (Note: I will not start talking about finances here because that differs from people to people and is usually a touchy subject, but that is also something to take into consideration when thinking of where to head for college. Personally, staying at home allowed me to graduate debt-free!)
– City or town? Do you prefer being in the middle of the action or be in a quieter setting?
– Does class size matters to you? Some big universities will have classes with hundreds of students. Do you mind being a face in the crowd or do you prefer being able to talk to your profs? At my uni I was never in a class bigger than 80 and by my last year most of my classes were between 9-20 people. Very worth it!
– Are the range of extracurriculars important to you? Some unis will offer more options than others.
– Lastly, really look into what courses the university offers! Do you want to do drama? Do you want to go to Yale? Sadly, Yale doesn’t offer drama as a major. Some of the large research universities don’t offer as many art majors, so choose in consideration. While people all thought I should attend McGill because of its reputation, it didn’t offer drama or creative writing so I chose an alternate university and got to take classes in both those subjects. I regret nothing!
Bonus thoughts for grad school goers :
Everything that I have said previously still applies to grad school, but there are other things worth looking into when heading into a Masters or PhD programme. While the reputation of the uni matters to a lot, at the postgraduate level whole new aspects matter.
– Find something that appeals to your particular research interests! Yes they offer masters in literature at almost every university, but the masters I did was on this super precise aspect of literature and they don’t offer that everywhere. St Andrews was that one place for me.
– Find good people in your field. More than the reputation of the uni, the professors/supervisors/mentors you will find there are the important thing to research. Were you really inspired by this one book during undergrad? Perhaps the researcher who wrote it/edited it is teaching somewhere, why not look into that and you would get the opportunity to study with them!
– Mostly for PhD : look into possible funding resources. Some unis will give more funding or more opportunities than others so it’s worth milking that cow as we all know that countless years of tuition can really add up to a big number.
In the end, it is all about what is most important to you. Inform yourself and stay true to yourself, that is all I can advise! Hope this was helpful! xx