Choosing a Course and College

This article will help you decide what to study and where.  We provide practical tips on how to compare colleges and , how to prepare for open days and who to talk to at these events.

Why not start by watching this short video, I Don’t Know What for Students with Disabilities

 

Background

Choosing the right course for you is the most important choice you make when deciding whether or not to go to college. Being informed about the content of the course, how it is taught and the methods of assessment may help you to decide which course is right for you.

Once you have decided on a course of study, you then have the often tricky task of finding the best college for you!

There are many factors to take into account when deciding on a college; probably the first question you need to ask yourself is, ‘Do I want to live away from home?’  This is a major consideration for any student, and autistic students can find it particularly challenging.

Open days present the perfect opportunity to meet lecturers and chat to current students about courses, careers, the transition to college, facilities, clubs & societies and more. Find out all you need to know about studying at TUS Athlone and meet our community. Take up opportunities to visit the campus by attending the Open Day, look around the campus, visit the accommodation, and try and speak to academic staff and current TUS Athlone students … really try and get a feel for what life there would be like.

How could this affect me?

Choosing the right course for you is the most important choice you make when deciding whether or not to go to College. Being informed about the content of the course, how it is taught and the methods of assessment may help you to decide which course is right for you.

And if you do start a course and you find it is not the one for you, there are options to change or start an alternative course.

 

TUS Athlone offers undergraduate, postgraduate, vocational, and professional courses from Level 6 undergraduate courses right up to Level 10 PhDs. From applied sciences and technology to business, design, engineering, health science and more, you’ll definitely find the course for you.  Simply search through all our available courses .

 

 

Once you have decided on a course of study, you then have the often tricky task of finding a suitable college  at which to study it!  There are many factors to take into account when deciding; probably the first question you need to ask yourself is, ‘Do I want to live away from home?’  This is a major consideration for any student, and autistic students can find it particularly challenging.

Take up opportunities to visit the different colleges, look around the campuses, visit the accommodation, and try and speak to the tutors… really try and get a feel for what life there would be like.

What to do next?

Find out more about the courses you are interested in

Practical tips

It is really important that you find out more about the college and the course, how it is taught and assessed before deciding if it is for you.

Find out what is important to you

If you are visiting several different colleges, it can become confusing, and easy to lose track of what was on offer at each; take a camera and note pad, and jot down important details. Some students have found it useful to have a spreadsheet to compare the facilities and courses on offer; you may want to consider things like:

  • distance to travel between accommodation and campus,
  • fees (tuition and any other costs you would be expected to pay for equipment etc.),
  • cost of accommodation and living expenses,
  • how many hours of lectures you will have a week,
  • autism support by the Disability Support Services Team
  • how inclusive the course material is, i.e. does it cater for a variety of student preferences?
  • reasonable accommodations typically available,
  • library facilities,
  • availability of quiet study areas,
  • extracurricular activities.

Each student will have their own priorities when it comes to what is important for them!

Understand the entire course structure

Autistic students have told us that they often struggle with understanding how the different modules or units in a course relate to each other, and why they are all required. When you go to an open day, ask the relevant course leader to explain this. Often the names of modules within a course do not reveal much about the content – again ask the course leader or module tutor to give you more information.

Speak to students

Often, open days are hosted by current students, sometimes called ‘Student Ambassadors’. Have a chat with them if possible, to get their first-hand impressions of how it is to study there. Our advice is to be open about your autism, and explain what you like, what you don’t like, and what you’re good at.

Check out our Student Ambassador Blogs to get a real picture of life at TUS Athlone. In other words, what it is like to be a student here from talking about their course, and their typical day at TUS Athlone to student life, clubs, societies and campus facilities.

It is also helpful to contact the Disability Support Service team before visiting, to arrange for an appointment with them on the day, so that they can explain their support policies.

Use our Best Practice Guides to prepare

We have put together a set of Best Practice Guides for academics and disability staff to help them support autistic students better. They are full of practical tips and you can use these guides as references when talking to professionals – to find out what the college already does in terms of support, and what they could do better in the future. You can download the guides at here.

Questions to think about

Some points to consider when choosing where and what to study:

  • What are you interested in? Is this an area of study that can lead to a career at the end of the course?
  • Do you want to live at home and commute to the college?
  • Would you be happy living independently away from home?
  • Are you aware of the workload that is required for your course? (Remember that much of your time will be spent in independent study.)
  • How is the course assessed?
  • Does the course require you to make additional purchases of equipment? (Some courses require the purchase of high spec computer equipment, for example, which can prove to be very expensive if you are not prepared for it!)
  • Have you researched what supports are avaliable to autistic students?
  • What is the social life like? (Not all students enjoy the livelier aspects of college life! Check with the Student Union to see what clubs and societies are on offer.)

Additional information and links

  • Download the Autism&Uni Best Practice Guides to help you prepare for an open day.
  • The Guardian’s University Guide gives students 20 top tips for choosing a course.
  • Find out more about the courses offered at TUS Athlone here
  • Find out more about Clubs and Societies at TUS Athlone here
  • Attend the Better Options  Fair. This event is ideal  for students with disabilities considering their post leaving cert educational options, parenthttps://www.ait.ie/coursess and guidance counsellors. Attendees are able to learn about college support services, making the most of your time in college and access routes open to those with disabilities and specific learning difficulties, including how to make an application to DARE – Disability Access Route to Education. There will be information on Further Education and Training, as well as Higher Education and Apprenticeships. There will be live Q&As where you can ask questions on DARE, accessing supports in college and any other questions you might have.

 

About the author

This article was adapted for use in TUS Athlone from the original article written by Jackie Hagan, Learning Support Coordinator at the University for the Creative Arts at Rochester.