How to pick the university that’s right for you
Deciding what university to attend can be an overwhelming and confusing process to go through. It’s arguably the most important decision you’ll make in terms of your education.
So I've broken the process down into three main categories you should look at when picking the right university for you!
Choosing the right course
Assuming you’ve already chosen what course you want to study for the next few years, your first task is narrowing down the list of universities. To do this, you’ll want to check which ones offer the course you're interested in.
Once you’ve narrowed it down a little, dive into what that course entails. Remember, this is what you’ll be studying everyday for several years, so it needs to be right!
In particular, focus on these things:
Be sure that the entry requirements for the course match your predicted grades and see which universities are a realistic choice based on this.
How you’ll be assessed on the course
From personal experience, my course, English Literature, isn’t assessed through exams anymore and is now mainly focused on coursework-based assessments. Other courses might be heavily weighted on work placements or physical exams, so it’s always important to check and work out which you’d prefer.
Find out exactly what you’ll be studying on the course. Most universities will show a breakdown of modules and subjects you’d be covering. See what piques your interest most. I looked particularly at reading lists, as some universities specialised in Shakespeare studies or modern literature and I needed to make sure I wasn’t going to hate the books I’d be reading.
Virtual open days seem to be replacing physical ones while the coronavirus situation is ongoing, but you should still be able to ask questions. For example, find out how often you’ll be in lectures or seminars and how much independent study is required. Then, you can base your choice around how much contact time you’d prefer.
Now you know the course is right for you, but is the location where the uni is based going to be the right fit? Here are some things to take into consideration:
Go to an open day
As I’ve already touched on in this article, physical open days might not be possible right now, but you can still go to virtual ones. Check out when they’re taking place and learn as much about the university, city and course as you can.
Once things have settled down and physical open days are running again, you can then go and see the place in real life. Visiting the university is really helpful, as it’ll give you a real feel as to what the tone of the place is like.
You’ll want to check out everything the university has to offer. When you’re on a virtual open day (or when physical ones are allowed again), make sure to get a tour of the campus and look out for the quality of the library, as it’ll be your first stop when that first assignment rolls around. Some unis will even have facilities like cafes, supermarkets and gyms, so be sure to ask questions about what’s on campus.
If you have a hobby or interest that you want to actively continue while at university then you’ll need to check out whether the university offers this. A quick look at the university’s website and you’ll find it in no time.
Socialising is one of the most important parts of student life. If you’re not interested in any of the societies then you might want to look for a university that has clubs that are more in line with your own hobbies.
For a lot of you, this will be the first time you’re moving out of your family home, so it’s essential to investigate where you’ll be living for most of the year. On that note, you might find it useful to see all of the cities that Unite Students has accommodation in and look at the different options.
The course, check. The university, check. Now have a look at the city you’ll be spending your time in. Remember, most courses are at least three years long, so you’ll be living there for a while. Make sure you like it by considering the following.
Is it too far away from home? Is it too close to home? Check out how long (and costly) the commute home will be and make sure you’re comfortable with the distance between you and your family.
When attending an open day, check out the city and the surrounding area. Are you a city person or do you prefer small towns? Considering how many years you’ll be living there for, you’ll need to be comfortable with what the place has to offer. Once you figure that out, you’ll feel much better about moving to a whole new location.
Some locations are just more expensive than others. City centres will most typically have more luxury brands and higher prices. Look at how the price of accommodation compares to other cities and see how costs might evolve if you move off of campus or into private housing in the area.
The cost of living is an important factor to consider too. We all know London is an expensive place to live, but will the more substantial student loan make it worthwhile?
Work through all of these different considerations and you should have a pretty good shortlist. Then, it’s all about following your gut, trusting your instincts and getting excited about the years ahead.