Choosing a university
The choice of course is not the only thing that will affect your experiences over the next few years. They will also be shaped a great deal by the culture, amenities, cost, and transport links of the place where you study. You may decide on a university locally and stay at home, or move away and discover somewhere new. Whatever you decide, you should consider your options carefully and if possible, visit the university itself before putting in your application.
HOW DO I FIND OUT ABOUT UNIVERSITIES?
University websites and prospectuses are a good place to start finding out more, but by far the best way to get a feel for different universities is to visit as many as possible. Look out for open days, campus tours, taster sessions and master classes. This will give you a taste of what the university is really like, but don’t just look at the facilities; take the opportunity to ask current students about their experiences too. The people, after all, will make much more difference to your time at university than the architecture. Using social media can also be a good way to connect with universities and their students – search for Facebook groups, Twitter feeds or look at online forums like The Student Room.
Once you have applied you may also be invited to an interview or applicant day.
The video playlist below feature advice from students and academics at the Universities of Birmingham and Bristol
QUESTIONS WHEN RESEARCHING UNIVERSITIES
- Is it a campus or non-campus university? A campus university is one on a contained site (or sites), usually outside a major town. Other universities have facilities scattered across a city.
- How far away from home is the university?
- Are the transport links good? You might want to check how long it takes the train from your university town of choice to get home, and how many changes are involved on the journey.
- What sort of location would you like to be in? For example, a country town or large city.
- What bursaries/scholarships/ do they offer?
- What’s the university’s reputation like? League tables published by national newspapers will give you an indication of teaching quality and graduate employability (see Choosing a course)
- How does the course compare with similar courses at other universities? Use Unistats to compare statistics about each course, and individual university websites to compare course content.
- What is the accommodation like? How much does it cost?
- How many students attend the university? Do you want to attend a small or large university?
- What are the study facilities like? For example, libraries and IT facilities.
- How good are the social and sporting facilities?
- Will you have to travel to get to lectures from where you will live?
You’ll be investing a great deal of time and money in your university degree so make sure that you make an informed choice. Choose a course which you will find interesting enough to motivate you for its duration, and choose a university where you feel comfortable and enjoy the atmosphere. The majority of students who drop out of higher education in their first year do so because they have chosen the wrong course or the wrong university for them, so do your research!
Perhaps the best guide for choosing courses is at The Complete University Guide