Aerospace admissions tutor Arthur Richards follows up on a question from a visitor at Saturday's Open Day.
Thanks to everyone who made the effort to come and visit us at an Open Day over the summer, either on the Saturday just gone or back in June. We hope you found it enjoyable, informative, and not too exhausting.
I want to follow up on a simple but difficult question asked by the father of a prospective applicant on Saturday: "We've been to the universities of X, Y, Z and now Bristol. They all look amazing, so how on earth is my son supposed to decide between them?" I'm redacting the names of the others to avoid any potential misrepresentation, but they're all research-intensive universities offering four year MEng Aerospace/nautical degrees and asking for the same grades as Bristol or one higher. I'm sure you can guess the ones I mean.
I'm sympathetic: it's been a long time since I made this choice myself, but I'm currently looking at buying a house, and there are similarities. (Sorry, parents, if this analogy only compounds your stress.) It's easy to rule some in or out, but choosing from the shortlist is difficult. There are a bewildering array of factors to consider and enormous pressure to get it right.
The dirty little secret of admissions is that you'll probably be very happy at any of them. All of X,Y,Z and many more besides are great universities and we work with many of them in our research as well - like us, they're smart people running very good programmes. An Aero degree from any one of them will make you a highly skilled and employable individual across a wide range of job sectors. Besides which, much of your university experience will be made by you yourself. All this means it's perfectly OK to make this decision on instinct - or as the father asking the question concluded "go with your gut".
That said, it is important that your gut is well informed. If you've been to an Open Day, you've made a good start. I know they're only brief but impressions matter. Below are a few other things you can easily look up that might help your instincts:
1. Look at the course structure (ours is here) and figure out if you'll specialize in aerospace from the beginning or have a common first year or first two years. If it doesn't say explicitly, you'll probably be able to tell by looking for "aero" courses in the first two years. Bristol specializes immediately, because we think it makes it easier to engage with aerospace from the start and you learn more aerospace material through examples and context. If you want to hedge your bets and have the flexibility to switch disciplines, maybe a common start would suit you better: your choice.
2. Look at the options. The core content probably includes the same stuff in most places, but the options may be more diverse, reflecting specialities of staff and departments. Ours aren't openly online at the moment (you need a student login) but the lists include: Computational Aerodynamics; Experimental Aerodynamics; Advanced Materials & Structures; Aeroelasticity; Heat Transfer; Vibrations; Optimisation Theory and Applications; Non-linear Dynamics and Chaos; Applied Aerodynamics; Structures & Materials 4; Aircraft Dynamics& Control; Advanced Techniques in Multi-Disciplinary Design; Composites Design& Manufacturing; Dynamics of Rotors; Advanced Composites Analysis; Advanced Space Systems; Engineering Design for Wind and Marine Power. Got all that?
3. Look at the research. The research specialities differ between institutions and do feed into the taught programme: research in a particular area can enhance the facilities and topics available for student projects, among other things. Aero research at Bristol is summarized here and, if you're really keen, you can click on the name of each staff member here and their research tab will tell you a bit about what they do. Find something that catches your imagination?
Of course there are many general things to consider as well: the location, other facilities, clubs and societies, etc. The above is just intended to help choose between Aero courses. Also, if you do apply to Bristol and get an offer, we'll invite you to visit again one Wednesday afternoon where you can meet current students and chase up on some of the above.
We're getting slightly ahead of ourselves. For now, you only need to narrow it down to your five UCAS choices. That still might need some tough choices for the last slot, but not quite so intense as choosing the final one. If Bristol makes it on to your list, we look forward to receiving your application in the coming weeks.