How do I choose the right university for me?
September 15th, 2022
Choosing a university is hard. For a lot of us, it feels like the first big important decision we have to make in our lives that will determine the rest of our lives. Going to university often means moving out of your parents’ home for the time and leaving your friends behind that you have gone to school with for the last few years. But even if you stay close to home, university is a big change in your life.
You are suddenly given much more responsibility in your life than you have had before and are treated more as an adult all of a sudden. Or, if you are mature student, re-entering education after working, raising a family or caring for someone, making the right decision based on your circumstances and preferences can feel like a tough task.
Consider these things before making a choice
Whether you are at the very beginning of your application journey or if you have already had a little look around, there are some questions you should ask yourself before narrowing down your 5 UCAS choices:
- What do you want to get out of your degree and your time at university?
- What are the most important things for you when thinking about your life at university?
- What do you want to achieve during and, more importantly, after your studies?
It is also important to keep in mind that this choice is only yours to make. You might have parents or family members wanting or even expecting you to choose a specific university or you might be set on going to the same university as your friends.
But you have to keep in mind that only you will spend the next 3-4 years (or longer) in one place studying your chosen course, so it’s you that has to be happy with your decision. Below, we have listed some top tips to follow when weeding through the 100s of UK universities and what they have to offer.
1. Take your time and do lots of research
There is a lot of information available about different universities and it can be overwhelming. Therefore, you should leave enough time to have a proper look and make an informed decision. It might be helpful to make detailed notes throughout the process, either in a notebook or on your computer. This way you don’t lose track and can note down the most important factors for you.
2. Study the website and request a physical prospectus
Most universities have all the information you need on their website. You can have a look at their courses, accommodation, societies & sports teams, location, transport and more by navigating through the website. Often, it can also be helpful to order a physical prospectus (normally free) as they can give a more structured overview of everything.
3. Attend Open Days, virtual tours and Taster Days and contact the university directly
Universities want you to choose them, so they put a lot of work into convincing you that they are the right choice. At Open Days, you can visit the campus and facilities, speak with students and lecturers, and get a feel for the university. Taster Days are similar, but more geared towards specific courses. They often involve visitors like you sitting in on a lecture and even getting actively involved in tasks or exercises as they are carried out during actual classes.
Many universities also offer virtual tours that you can do from home to get an impression of the campus and the location. Lastly, you can always contact a university directly via phone, email or live chatrooms, if you have any questions. There, you can sometimes even speak to current students and ask them everything about their personal experience which can be really helpful.
4.Look at sudent reviews, rankings, and social media channels
While rankings are quite an obvious way to see which university is ‘the best’, student reviews and comments on sites such as universitycompare.com or whatuni.com can give you a really good idea of what people like you think about their university.
Another, maybe not so obvious, way to learn more about a university is checking out their social media channels. That way, you can see what is important to them and can get another feel of the vibe there.
5. Compare courses and departments
You might already be set on a specific course that you want to study, or you might still be quite open. Either way, it is important to take a close look at the courses at different universities. On the websites, scroll through the course page, research the lecturers teaching on the course and see what career prospects might be for that specific course. Also, study the modules carefully and see if they are something you actually want to learn more about.
Often, there is also information available about the timetable and the assignments which can also be a helpful detail. Analysing these aspects is important when comparing courses because while a lot of universities might have courses on offer with the same or very similar names, the content can vary greatly.
The above outlined tips are just a starting point and are, of course, customisable to your individual situation and preferences. We know the choices can feel overwhelming and narrowing down your choices to a maximum of 5 can seem impossible but if you have a good plan and figure out what you want beforehand, you will find it a lot easier.