Geography is a broad subject, and the way it is taught varies greatly between different universities, and according to the choices students make once they are at university. When you are helping a student who is thinking of applying for a Geography degree, here are some good questions to ask them:
Why do you want to study Geography?
Geography overlaps with several other subjects, such as social and political sciences, geology, ecology, and physics. Here is an ‘A* answer’ to the ‘Why do you want to study Geography’ question – from Martin Degg, Head of Geography at the University of Chester: “There has never been a more exciting time to study geography at university. It helps explain much of what is going on in the world right now, from climate change and the Arab Spring to globalization and natural disasters. Geographers have embraced new digital technologies and media in their field/laboratory work, making the knowledge and practical skills of the modern geographer very relevant to a wide range of employer needs. The employment stats for geography graduates are now better than for most other traditional academic subjects, so if you want to go places at university - and beyond - study geography.”
What types of Geography do you enjoy?
Geography is split into two main areas: Human Geography (BA), which is concerned with people and how they live, and Physical Geography (BSc), which is more scientific and closer to geology or ecology. Most general geography courses cover both areas in the first year before allowing students to specialise in the second and third years, culminating in a dissertation on a subject of students’ own choosing in the final year. Students can focus even more narrowly when it comes to specialised degrees such as Coastal Geography and Marine Geography.
What kind of learning experience are you looking for?
To get a better idea of what studying Geography will be like at a particular university, students should research the size of the Geography department, as well as how the course is taught – the hours of lectures / small groups / tutorials per week, and what field trips a student can take part in. All of these factors vary greatly from university to university.
Do you have the right entry requirements?
The majority of undergraduates will have studied Geography at A-level, although this is not essential. Human Geography courses often don’t have preferred subjects at A-level, whereas Physical Geography courses normally prefer sciences. Students applying to universities which conduct interviews should be prepared to talk convincingly about why they enjoy the subject and what attracted them to a particular course. Reading ‘around the subject’ is essential. Both Oxford and Cambridge require students to undertake a thinking skills assessment (TSA) before being called forward for interview.
By Tim Lowe
For similar articles on advising students on choosing a university course, check out:
Architecture, Business, History, English, Engineering, Maths