At the point where you apply for university, you may have already been thinking about it for a little while. Perhaps you have always had ideas and aspirations for where you want to go.
- Perhaps your grades are a dictating factor.
- Perhaps the subject you want to study truly defines your options.
- Perhaps a parent went to a particular uni and you have been thinking about following in their footsteps.
- Then again, this might really be the first time the reality of choosing somewhere to go has dawned on you.
There are lots of elements that go into choosing a university, some more within your control than others. However, making a conscious choice is important and empowering, deciding on a trajectory for the next three years or more of your life, and having a profound impact on your career thereafter.
Here are some of our tips on how to choose the right university for you.
Choose the right subject
It should go without saying but the subject you want to study can really narrow down your choice of university. If it’s something particularly niche there may only be a few places that offer it. If it’s something broader, then you will have more options. Choosing the right subject for you is about three things:
- Are you passionate about it?
- Do you have good grades in that subject (if it’s one you study at school)?
- Does it relate to what you want to do after university?
While it’s not compulsory to have A*s in your subject of choice, it’s worth remembering that the level of understanding really does go up a number of levels at university, so if it’s something you struggle with at school then it’s worth considering if it’s the right path to follow. Passion is essential, especially at the top universities. Not all subjects directly relate to particular career paths and you might not know what you want to do yet after university. That’s all ok, just as long as you are aware of your thought process around these key points.
Choose the right course
Once you’ve selected your subject, it’s important to look at the different course offerings from one university to another. They can be extremely different at each university. For example, there’s a difference between Oxford and Cambridge when it comes to Natural Sciences. At Oxford, you directly apply to one specific science, while Cambridge does it under one whole course. So, pick the course you like better.
Look at university rankings
While they might not be the be all and end all, university rankings do give you an insight into which programs are considered the most selective and prestigious. That might impact how an employer sees your degree against another candidate or it might have an impact on the investment that programme receives, which in turn can affect the facilities available.
Explore university culture
The culture of a university is really about making sure you have a nice time and that you feel happy in your surroundings. For example, Loughborough University has a strong reputation for sports, while Newcastle University is much loved by lots of international students. Some universities are more arts oriented and so forth. You won’t fully know what a place is like until you’re there but it’s a good idea to get a feel for it by visiting on open days.
Geography of the university
Where the university is but also how it’s laid out can have a big impact on your experience. Think about what suits you. For example:
- Is the university you’re looking at campus based or not? Exeter and Bristol are in a similar part of the UK, but one is a campus and one is not. Some prefer the close-knit community of a campus, others prefer the sense of space that goes with being integrated into the wider city.
- Is the university in the city, country or suburbs? If it’s in city, is it a big city or a small city? A university experience at UCL will be very different for example to one in Edinburgh.
- How far is the university from home? If it’s your first time away from home you might want to think about whether it’s within driving distance or a train journey, in case you feel like a last minute weekend trip.
What’s the student accommodation like?
What type of student accommodation is available and what’s it like? Again, if it’s your first time away from home, you might prefer catered halls if they’re available.
Others might prefer living in their own space. If halls are available, is that just for first years or are they an option throughout your university career? You might also want to know if the buildings are old or new? Is it a convivial environment? And importantly, how far is it from your faculty?
Leading on from this, what type of student support is available?
University isn’t all about studying; it’s also about how you spend your time outside the classroom. It’s a good idea to look at the sports, societies and other leisure activities that are available both through the uni and in the surrounding area. This will be a big part of your lifestyle and the level of involvement you have while you’re at this pivotal point in your education.
CamVision offers expert guidance and advice when it comes to applying to university. If you would like to speak to one of our advisors about mentoring, contact us by following the link below.