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Choosing the right University...

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So I recently got to go back to my old high school and give a talk to some year 10 and year 12 art students. I decided to tell them about my time so far at Huddersfield University, and what kind of options an art degree gives you when you graduate. It was really nice to go back and hopefully I inspired some of them enough to choose to do an art related subject at degree level. 

This inspired me to write a blog post about how to pick the right University if you are choosing an art degree. A lot of this will apply to other degree's too, so give it a read even if your not planning on choosing art and design. 

1. Look for a course with a sandwich year option.

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I may be biased since I'm currently about to start my sandwich year, however I think that it's really important to get some experience with your degree. The one thing any company will ask you when you are interviewing for a job once you have graduated is 'what kind of experience do you have?'. At that point, you will have two options. If you did a traditional degree, your answer will likely be 'none'. However if you did a sandwich degree, your answer will be 'I completed a year in industry as an intern'. I guarantee this is going to put you ahead compared to other graduates. I know graduating probably feels quite far in the future, but trust me it creeps up quickly, and the job hunt becomes imperative. So, definitely consider looking for a university that offers this option. If you do find a course you love that doesn't offer a sandwich year, I suggest you spend your summers getting experience in a local company. Or even spend a day or two a week in a company during your degree. It will help massively. 

2. Find a course that has good links with industry.

This kind of ties in with the first point, but when your looking at a course, ask the tutors what kind of links with industry they have. Usually, if a course has good ones, then they will be boasting about them already. For design courses such as graphics, animation and architecture it's important that they bring companies in to set briefs and look at students work. This is also important in third year when companies are invited to your final show. It's especially helpful if you are doing a sandwich course, as the University will usually help you by already having links with companies that they have students doing their placements in. 

3. Ask what kind of equipment is available to you.

As an art and design student, a lot of the time you need access to different types of equipment. For example, if your an animator, your going to need access to some very high spec computer labs to complete your work. If you are a textiles student you may need access to screen printing, sewing machines, or even a loom. Personally as a graphic designer the most important thing for me is access to a laser cutter, and good printing facilities. 

4. Speak to the staff.

Speaking to your potential tutors is a great way to find out more about the course, and see who is going to be teaching you. A lot of the time if you find a tutor that seems really passionate about what he/she is teaching, then it's going to inspire you to be there even more. That's one of the reasons I chose Huddersfield, because the tutors seemed really enthusiastic when I visited. You also want to see if you think you could spend three years with these people, as there's nothing worse than a personality clash! 

5. Make sure you like the area.

This is less art related, but it's really important. You have to remember that when choosing a University, you are choosing the place you are going to be living for the next three years plus. Really make sure that you like the university campus. If you are choosing to go to a city, a lot of the time campus buildings are spread across the city. Is this something you would want? Or would you prefer somewhere with the campus all in one spot? These are all questions you need to ask yourself. So when you are visiting a University, make sure you spend some time in the place itself as well as looking at the University. This will give you a better impression, and hopefully tell you if you want to spend 3 years of your life there.

Also make sure that you check the University league tables (The Guardian and The Times do them) to see what kind of stats the University has. Graduate employment is an important one to look at. So that is all the main points that I can think of at the moment. If I think of anything else, i'll be sure to post it. Hope this helps potential undergrads! 

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