Choosing a university can be incredibly hard. Whether it be far away or close to home, there are several universities that offer different things and have different types of teaching for their courses. Here are our key tips to help you choose a university that is right for you.
Do your research
First things first, you will need to do a bit of online research. The UCAS website will have every course that is being offered in the UK and you can filter them by location and name of the course. Once you have found a list of courses to choose from, you should have a look on each university’s website and look at what the actual course will entail. Each university tends to do things slightly differently so you will have to find one that you think would be best for you.
Go to open days
You should be attending as many open days as possible. It’s suggested that you do this at least twice for each university you are interested in. Attending open days is a good way to get a feel for what the university itself is like. After all, the university you choose to attend will practically become your second home for the next few years. It is important that you choose a university not just for the course, but also because you like the university itself and its location is practical for you. Remember to talk to professors, students and university staff and also visit the city or town to see if you like it.
Find out what the course entails
Every university will have a different course structure for the same course. You will need to do a bit of researching to find out what the course structures are like at each university you are interested in. It would be a good idea to run it through with a teacher/careers advisor to get a second opinion on whether they think you would thrive with certain course structures. Some universities may even offer placement years with their courses, so you need to keep that in mind.
Consider the location
It’s great when you find a university that has the best course for you, amazing results and is close to everything you could possibly need. However, you will need to consider the location as well. If you are more of a home bird and think you wouldn’t do well in a university that is far away, you will have to look into universities that are closer to home. You will also need to consider whether the location will be too expensive for you to live there and whether you will be able to find suitable accommodation. Would you prefer a busy city or a quiet out-of-town campus? Are you going to be living at home or in student accommodation? What would your daily commute be like – will it be sustainable to do this for the next 3 or 4 years.
Find out what’s on offer
You’re going to be at the university you choose for upwards of three years so find out what they have to offer outside of the classroom. Whether you love partying the night away, or you prefer a quieter laid-back life, check if the Uni you are interested in tick all the boxes. Most universities have student unions with everything you need – check it out and see if its fully kitted to your liking! If you’re a foodie that loves going to good restaurants, then you will have to see if there are any decent restaurants around. Don’t forget about your universities societies as well! Sports teams, film clubs and music clubs are all part and parcel of societies so you will need to check if they have the one that you want. Some universities even let you start your own society.
Look at the reputation and ranking
Some universities have stellar reputations. Others, not so much. It is argued that a few high-profile employers (especially in areas like investment banking) don’t just look at what grades you have; they will also be on the lookout for which university you went to. If you want to pursue a specific career, you might want to consider which universities have a strong reputation or ranking in your particular area/discipline. Bear in mind that it is possible to have a Uni with a low overall ranking but a high ranking in a specific subject area due to their history and specialisation in that specific area.
Oxford and Cambridge have their own exclusive application process, so if you are considering these ensure you meet their high standards and are well prepared for their highly competitive application process. If you are applying for higher ranking universities and the likes of Russell Group universities, make sure you’re predicted to get amazing grades, and should really push to achieve them in the real GCSEs as competition can be stiff.
Yes, university ranking/reputation does carry a bit of weight, but it’s not everything. Don’t be put off if the Uni you are interested in has a low ranking. The average employer is not bothered about the Uni’s ranking, they are more interested in you, your degree class, other things you have done to beautify your CV. For instance, let’s say we have two graduates, one from a top 20 Uni and one from a bottom 20 Uni – if they both train and study to become qualified and chartered in their area of study – the majority of employers will not even bother comparing the Uni ranking – it’s the least on their criteria when ranking two competent and fully qualified professionals.
Remember to prepare thoroughly before you make the big decision. There is nothing worse than heading off to a university that you will come to hate and either transfer to a different university or end up dropping out. Neither of those options are ones that anyone wants to do, and it can impact your finances massively. So, make sure you do your research and choose a university that you feel is best suited for your needs.