Ask the right questions: helping your daughter choose the university that fits

Choosing a university is probably the most important decision your daughter will have made in her life to date. Indeed, for many, this decision has a huge impact on the choices they go on to make during their lives even when holding the status as ‘student’ feels a like a mere distant memory.

The three or four years spent at university are a critical period in every individual’s growth. It is a time to pursue, challenge and gain confidence in developing intellectual curiosities; strengthening the mind but also finding your own voice. This is the chance to meet like-minded people, those friends who will help your daughter feel truly comfortable in her own skin, but also encourage her to question the world around her and discover what she values as important.

This choice has become no less important in recent years but is less simple and the price of getting it wrong is certainly higher; not only are fees substantially higher, but the career implications of the wrong choice are harder to unravel.

Alongside UK universities offering a plethora of different courses at different prices, are their European counterparts, many of which teach in English, and fantastic opportunities to study at high quality institutions in both Asia and North America. So what are the guiding principles that will help you and your daughter navigate this ocean of choice?

There are three important ones.

First and foremost university should remain a challenging intellectual experience. Education is good in itself, but a demanding experience is likely to be no bad thing when it comes to demonstrating your suitability to a future employer. Wherever your daughter is looking, help her ask the questions to determine the quality of the offering:

  • who will be teaching her?
  • will she be getting one on one attention?
  • how much teaching will she actually receive?


Too often, even the best universities care more about research than teaching and parcel out the task of education to bright but unqualified PhD students, who may see your daughter only a few times a term and then in the company of many others.

Secondly, does the university care about what happens to your daughter once she has graduated? They may have a careers service, but will they actively solicit internships and other forms of work experience? Will they not only provide an academic training but also a professional training, giving her the capabilities she will need to tackle the competitive world with confidence?

Finally, what will the environment be like? Will it be stimulating but also safe? Will there be opportunities to socialise, but also the support networks in place to help if things go wrong? Will your daughter be just a number, lost in a huge institution, or known by name and valued in a small one?

Going to university should be a wonderful moment in everybody’s life. Its impact is enormous, it’s expensive and a decision made in haste can be regretted for a very long time. Ensure you have looked at every credible alternative, check your daughter is clear about what she wants and why she wants it and help her ask the right questions. Good luck with everything and enjoy watching your daughter flourish- it’s as much a journey for you as it is for her.

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