Choosing where to study is a huge decision, it will inevitably affect your future career and probably your life. So, it always helps to have done your research when making this crucial decision. But when you’re faced with both academic university rankings and personal student reviews, how do you know which to rely on, and how to decide on a university?
Both student reviews and university rankings are a great way of discovering information about a specific university or degree. However, the type of information they will give you differs.
To help make your research easier, we’ve uncovered the pros and cons of both student reviews and university rankings. By the end of this article, you’ll have a better idea of which factors are more relevant, and how you can feel confident in your decision of which university to attend.
How to Decide on a University: Student Reviews
Student reviews can be written by alumni or current students at a university and will describe a personal experience of studying. In these reviews, you’ll discover detailed information about degree courses, professors, student accommodation, and what it’s really like to be a student at a particular university.
Because student reviews are personal, they’re a great way to discover those ‘unwritten’ parts of university life. For example, a university brochure or website won’t necessarily dive objectively into what the university experience is really like. For that, you’ll need to read what real students and alumni think.
In this way, student reviews can give you a glimpse at a real university experience – something that’s important to know if you’re going to spend three or four years somewhere.
When referring to student reviews of universities or courses, though, it’s important that you seek out authentic and verified student reviews. This way, you know that the review has been written by a real student at a particular university. Otherwise, as with any part of the internet, it can be difficult to trust that what a stranger has written is true. For example, for users to post a review on the EDUopinions platform, they will need to verify their identity and prove they are real students.
While alumni reviews can give you an idea of how to find a job after university, they cannot tell you what an employee actually thinks about a particular university. Rankings, on the other hand, often track a university’s reputation among employers. If you’re aiming for a particular industry, this can be really important.
How to Decide on a University: University Rankings
University rankings are traditionally viewed as a way of reviewing which universities are worth attending and which aren’t. If a university appears at the top of a ranking – or in the top 10, or top 50 – many years in a row, you can deduct that it’s a trusted and well-respected institution.
Rankings can also give you a good idea of what universities are objectively good at. For example, one university might rank higher in science subjects than humanities, so you know it might be a good place to study biology or chemistry. University rankings also often note specific facts, such as the ratio between faculty and students. Though this won’t necessarily tell you about the experience of studying, it will give you an idea of what class sizes are like, which will undoubtedly influence your university experience.
Deciding on a university purely based on rankings can be problematic, though. For starters, many different rankings use different methodologies. Without knowing exactly how the ranking has been created, it’s difficult to know why universities have ranked highly. For example, the Times Higher Education World University Rankings place a lot of value on an institution’s research. The QS rankings, meanwhile, try to accurately capture a university’s academic performance by looking at employability and general reputation.
Every university ranking is different, with some schools choosing not to participate in all of them. For this reason, it’s best to review a variety of rankings rather than looking at just one.
Conclusion: Student Reviews vs University Rankings
When it comes to deciding on a university, you want to know that you’ve made the best decision you can. This means seeking out a variety of information and coming to your own conclusion.
Student reviews and university rankings are just two places you could go to for information on your prospective universities. Both have their advantages and disadvantages:
However, in the end, it’s not about placing more value on one than the other. If you’re wondering how to decide on a university, then the answer is to use both. Both rankings and student reviews can complement each other, leading you to a more confident decision about where to study.
Now that you know exactly how to decide on a university, take a look at our guidance on choosing the right university course.