Choosing the best course of study

student weighing up his options
© hjalmeida | iStockphoto

Deciding what to study is a confusing process. Which course is best, how should you study it, and which education provider should you go with?

Just as you wouldn’t buy a house without inspecting it first, the same thing goes for selecting a course – you need to carefully analyse all the pros and cons before committing.

There are many different course options and some courses are harder to get into than others. What you need to do is some thorough research.

Below are some things to consider when making that big decision.

Course content

The same course may be taught very differently from one institution to another. Review course outlines and pay close attention to core subjects, electives, and whether or not there’s a work placement component. Some course programs may offer you a lot more scope to complete subjects in your area of interest and undertake practical experience.

Accreditation

The last thing you want is to finish your course and find out it’s not accredited! It’s important to check that the course is accredited by relevant industry bodies and that on completion you will meet all registration requirements.

Course reputation

Just because an institution has a good name doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best place to study the particular course you’re interested in. Talk to people in the industry to find out which courses are most highly regarded and which ones they would recommend. The Hobsons course ratings are a great resource for finding out how different institutions rate in different areas.

Online or on campus

If your course is available online, you need to think about what mode would suit your learning style and lifestyle best. Do you need flexibility in your schedule, do you live too far to commute, or do you do better learning in a classroom, face-to-face? If you choose to study on campus, you need to think about the time and costs associated with commuting, or the need for accommodation if you relocate.

Industry connectedness

The graduate job market is tough and it’s becoming more common for courses to offer students the opportunity to undertake professional experience placements during their degree. Some courses, like teaching and nursing, incorporate practical placements as part of their requirements. Other courses vary around options for professional placements. Find out if there are opportunities for work integrated learning as part of the course, and find out if there’s a strong alumni program and leadership or mentoring programs. These opportunities will give you a competitive advantage when you’re looking for a graduate job.

Institution ‘feel’

If you’re planning to study on campus, make the effort to attend open days and faculty information sessions as they give you a chance to explore, talk to staff and get a feel for the campus. Each institution has its own unique flavour and you need to find a place where you’ll feel comfortable. Don’t be afraid to ask other students about how they like their course or how they rate the quality of the teaching, campus facilities and student life.

Student support services

You may need to access support services during your studies or there might be times that you need to seek assistance – so it’s important to know what support services are available. Ask about academic support, online resources, health services and career counselling services.

Funding

Once you’ve narrowed down your options, you need to make sure you can afford them. Find out if there are Commonwealth Supported Places available or government loan schemes such as HECS-HELP, FEE-HELP and VET FEE-HELP. Most institutions also offer scholarships and awards, so be sure to check out their websites to see what’s on offer.

Check out the full range of online courses available to you – then pick and choose!




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