Choosing the right university is one of the most important decisions you will make in your life. For most students, their time at university is looked back on fondly, and this is all down to picking the right one.
There are hundreds of universities to choose from so it can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. With the right amount of research and some basic direction, though, you should be able to make the best choice for yourself.
There are several key factors that you need to consider, so if you’re ready, read on. This is how to choose the right university…
Make a List of All The Universities You're Interested In
There are over 160 universities in the UK so narrowing your choices down to five is not an easy task.
The key is to be selective. What are your predicted grades? Find out which unis have these grades as entry requirements and you’ve got yourself a pretty solid list of options to start with.
Once you have made this list, find out as much about each one as possible. Visit open days, browse through their prospectuses, and talk to people who attended that uni.
Be Realistic With Target Grades
When admissions officers look at your application, they’ll want to know whether you can achieve the grades they’re asking for.
It’s recommended to apply for three places that ask for similar grades to the ones you’re predicted. Then, you can choose one with slightly higher grade requirements and one with lower requirements. That way you can give yourself a goal to work towards as well as a back-up choice.
Research The Course Content
The next thing to consider is the actual course content. There will usually be variations across universities in course content and reading lists. Therefore, make sure to compare the courses between the unis.
Look at the individual modules covered in each course. Identify which ones are most interesting or relevant to your career aspiration. Find out how you will be taught and assessed. Will there be a lot of exams, essays, or group work? How many lectures will you have? Will you be assessed through exams, coursework, presentations, or a combination of all three?
Most unis display information about their course structure, while faculty departments are usually more than happy to answer any additional questions you have.
Take this factor with a grain of salt; rankings don’t tell the whole story, after all. However, they provide a good indication of the general reputation and standing of the uni - a factor that can be important in certain universities.
The key is to dissect the points that are relevant to you as an undergrad. What is the student satisfaction score like? What is the ratio of faculty members to students? Focus on what will directly affect your education and university experience.
Also, different ranking tables give different scores, look at a few tables and maybe take the average to have a better idea of where the university ranks.
University Ranking Tables
Once you’ve found a few unis you like, you should consider their location next. Regardless of whether you’re planning to move out for your degree or commute from home, the location matters.
Think about whether you feel more at home in a big city or in a smaller town. Another important point to consider is how far away from home you would like to be. If you prefer sticking closer to home, explore universities in your hometown or cities closest to you. However, if you’re itching to fly the nest, look at universities further away.
When you visit the uni on open days, think about the campus and the city. Spend some time wandering around the local town or city centre. Ask yourself if you’d like to live there for three years because it’s hugely important that you feel comfortable and happy.
If the answer’s yes, you’ve found one of your five uni choices!
Types of University
Now the UK has several different types of university. They can vary in age, location and size (among other things).
Age of the University
Universities in the UK vary in age. There are ancient institutions such as Oxbridge as well as more modern ones. How old the university is can be an indicator of the types of degrees taught and teaching style.
Campus or City University?
A campus university has teaching spaces, accommodation, research facilities and other amenities such as shops and restaurants all on one site.
They are usually outside a large city or town. Campus universities are known for having a stronger community spirit as well as for being safer and more convenient.
A city university has facilities spread across a number of different locations within the same city. They allow you to get more involved with what the city has to offer, such as industry opportunities, nightlife, and cultural experiences.
What Size University Do You Prefer?
UK universities vary from large - with 30,000+ students, offering a broad range of courses - to small, specialist institutions of a few hundred people, with a lot in between.
A smaller university will provide a stronger sense of community, whereas the larger universities will likely have a greater number of courses, clubs and societies to offer.
Another important point to consider is how much a university will cost you. If you choose to stay at home, you are more likely to spend less than if you choose to study in a different city or abroad.
On the flip side, however, your choice of study-abroad country could offer better financial aid packages or lower tuition fees than your home country.
Do weigh up these different scenarios before you make a decision.
Think About the Whole Experience
Remember that making the right university choice isn’t just about finding the best place to study.
Make sure to think carefully about things like work experience and internship opportunities. Think about the companies you want to intern for, or do work experience at, and choose a university that’s realistically close to that company. See what graduate employability and industry pathways the university offers.
Most universities have very successful careers support services and will be able to provide help and support as you transition into work. However, if you’ve got a very specific idea of what you want to do when you graduate, you may find that some universities offer specific services or opportunities that will really help you.
Looking For Advice
Go To Open Days
Open days are essential when it comes to choosing your university. If you can, try and visit each university that you apply for. It gives you a good idea of what the university is really like and what makes each one different.
Bear in mind that open days are designed to show the university in the best possible light. Don’t simply take everything you see to be true – but try not to be overly critical. Open days are a great way to explore the university and see what it has to offer. Don’t forget to think about the wider area, as well.
There can be other benefits to open days, too. Admissions tutors will often give presentations where they discuss what makes a good application, and there will usually be time for you to ask specific questions to help you in your application process.
Talk To Current University Students
When you go to university open days, they will usually be student ambassadors who you can talk to and ask questions. But again, be aware that because they are working at a university event, they will be likely to have had a largely positive uni experience. To gain a more well-rounded and realistic view, try looking at student groups on social media and ask questions there.
You could also have a search online to see if there are any blogs or vlogs from students at your chosen university and see what they have to say.
In case you have a more specific question, don’t hesitate to get in touch with admissions officers at universities.
They are used to hearing all sorts of questions so don’t be embarrassed or scared by anything that you want to ask.
Have a chat with your school teachers or guidance counsellor if you’re finding it hard to make a decision. They’ll be able to help you weigh up all the different factors and figure out which university will work best for you.
They may even be able to put you in contact with former students who have gone on to study at your university of choice.
University Websites and Social Media
Look at the university website, where you will easily find information on some of the points mentioned, or you may be directed to social media threads or online forums that can provide you with answers.
Being able to find the right university is crucial; thorough preparation can save you from having to transfer universities or, even worse, dropping out altogether. Neither of those outcomes is the end of the world, of course, but it can be a financially painful lesson; it can also be an avoidable one if you stick to this guide closely.
And as a parting piece of advice, make sure that your second choice is as well researched as your first. You should only put it down as your insurance choice if you actually want to go to that university and study the course.
And of course, make sure that the entry requirements are less than your predicted grades because it wouldn’t really be an “insurance choice” otherwise, would it?
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