As someone who has just gone through the tough process of deciding on my chosen degree to study at university, I am fully aware how daunting and at times very difficult it can be.
For me it was such an important decision as it has a direct relation to the rest of my life. Very scary indeed. So once (after about three months of changing my mind) I had finally decided that public relations was the perfect degree for me, I now had to decide where to study.
Reputation comes first
I always knew that, regardless of whatever subject I took, I wanted to go to an accredited university for that subject, or one that was well known and highly regarded. I know that it shouldn’t matter too much, but in the real world, potential employers are going to look to the universities where they believe the best students come from. If it so happens that Kent has a good reputation for English students, why would they look anywhere else first? It makes sense, and so began my hunt to find a list of universities that were considered as some of the best for PR. So I would suggest this is a good way to begin narrowing universities down.
It became clear to me that the degrees approved by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) would certainly be a good place to start. Through their website I found a list of approved courses and looked into each one. This list makes the decision far more manageable as there is a set number of universities to look at, rather then the seemingly never ending pages from UCAS. There are other universities that offer public relations degrees that have not yet been accredited by CIPR; I did look at these also, so I didn’t rule any options out, and would advise you all to do the same.
So now you all know that the universities have good reputations, it is important to look at the differences between the actual courses and modules. Do they offer a year placement in the workplace? This will invaluable experience and the chance to put into practise all the theory you have learnt, whilst also making those all important industry connections. Do they offer a year studying abroad? Is this something that you could see yourself doing? Bearing in mind living abroad/ learning a new language makes you more desirable to a potential employer.
Location, location, location
Then it is good to know about the location of the university. Would you like to be closer to home or as far away as possible? And without being clichéd, the nightlife and shopping facilities are always worth looking into also. It would be a good idea to have a look at any PR companies that are based in the city or near the university, as you will most certainly be encouraged to carry out work experience during your time there.
From this you should have a better idea of at least five universities that you think would be the best for you. It is all very well having gathered this information mostly from the universities’ individual websites or from their open days but remember the lecturers and staff aren’t the ones actually studying the degree.
Speak to the students currently on the course. They’ll tell you their thoughts, and most of the time, will be brutally honest. They have been through it too; they know what worries they had themselves and will tell you what they like most or least about their PR course.
I found that an easy way to do this was through Twitter. As most PR students have an account it was relatively easy to find students on the course, I then politely direct messaged them asking their thoughts so far. Simple!
By this time I had a good idea of where I wanted to go, the last piece of advice I would offer is to actually go and visit the universities. They are your future homes for the next thre or four years. Get a feel of the place and the surrounding area; you will know whether or not it is right for you.
I found that these were all aspects that helped me choose where to go, and can be related to anyone. I wanted a university with a good reputation and employability prospects whilst at the same time being in an enjoyable place to live. I can’t see why any prospective PR students would want anything different.
At the end of the day the choice is completely up to you. It comes down to personal preference and you cannot let any others sway your opinion, but do your research and speak to others on the course, the decision will be a far easier one to make.