Is it really worth visiting a university before applying?

With so much learning, interacting and living done online, how important is it to visit a university in person before applying?

Obviously for some, visiting uni in person is harder than it is for others. For those applying from overseas, especially in the last couple of years, it’s been almost impossible to visit in advance of attending – even Oxbridge interviews have been done online. While sometimes needs must, and you can definitely get a good feel for the academics, the ethos and the details of a place through online information and virtual tours, we’re big believers in the importance of visiting whenever possible for one key, intangible reason – getting a feel for the place.

While we all tend to focus on courses and academics when it comes to applying to university (and for good reason), this is somewhere you’re going to spend three or more years of your adult life. They are formative years and the layout, geography, strengths, culture and teaching methods of each university is different – appealing to some and not to others. 

Why is it important to visit a university?

University is a time for academics but it’s also a time for wider personal development, so choosing an environment where you feel happy, excited and inspired, as well as somewhere that appeals to practical things like accessibility, is integral. 

For example, a student with social anxiety recently found herself at a university with no option for off campus accommodation, which caused her high levels of stress in her first week. A member of our own team also knew that while she loved the University of Edinburgh, it was important to her to be within driving distance of her family in London in case she wanted to get back last minute, so she opted for the University of Bristol.

Practical things to think about might include transport – is student accommodation close to the university itself? If not and you don’t drive, that may be something to take into consideration. If you do drive, is there much (if any) student parking and what is the cost? Check out the halls and see whether you like the general atmosphere. Have a chat with current students on open days to ask questions about student life or things they wouldn’t have known before they started. 

The reason these visits are important are:

  • To make sure you’re happy with your choice of university
  • To inform you about any preparation you need to do before attending
  • To help you feel empowered and excited about attending 
  • To give you an idea of what to expect from student life 

What should you do when you visit? 

Advice from UCAS is very much on the side of visiting universities before applying or accepting an offer. They say: 

Go with a list of questions and chat to students  Interview your prospective tutors See if there are lots of interesting things going happening in the students’ union and on departmental notice boardsIf you have special dietary requirements, is there much choice in the cafes and food outlets? Try to read a copy of the latest edition of the student newspaper to see what the important issues are on campus

We also suggest: 

  • Walking from the halls to your subject buildings at university so you know the route and how long it takes.
  • Check out the transport links within the city/campus and also to and from home.
  • If you need to move out of halls in your second year, are there plenty of places to rent within a reasonable distance of campus?
  • Have a look around and see what there is to do in the city or surrounding area – it’s not just about learning – it’s also about living! If you like art, are there galleries for example?

What if you can’t visit a university in person?

All of this said, there are instances where it’s not possible to visit a university. In these cases, universities do try to make it as easy as possible to get the information you need. You can:

  • Do lots of research online (obviously)
  • Visit to compare UK higher education course data
  • Some universities will offer e-mentor programmes so you can communicate with someone studying a similar subject to the one you want to do

At CamVision we understand how daunting the university application process can be, and how important it is to find the right fit. Whether you are able to visit your choice of university or not, our team provides university application mentoring for pre- and post-graduate programmes. We would be happy to help guide and support you through the process to help ensure the long-term success of your academic career.