How do you decide if a university is right for you?
Choosing which university is right for you is a big
decision. With over 150 higher education institutions in the UK alone, it is
important to do your research and really think about what it is that you want from
your university experience. Sound overwhelming? We thought so! It’s okay to feel worried
about making the right decision. In order to support you through the decision, we’ve written a blog post on some
of the best ways to decide if a university is right for you. Follow these steps
and you’ll be able to shortlist your options based on what really matters to you...
Choose the course you like most
This sounds simple and pretty obvious, but often we get swept up in the university location itself, or following where people we know are going, without actually deciding what course is right for us. Choosing a course that fits your needs is arguably the most important factor when choosing between universities. You’ll only be studying it for 3 or 4 years! Choose wisely.
Once you’ve figured out the type of field you want to go into, look into specific courses (each one will have a page on the university’s website) and read up on the various modules that you’d be taking. Courses differ across universities so this is a great way to determine which university is right for you. For example, if you want to study Marketing but hate Maths, avoid courses that have a heavy focus on finance units. This is a quick way to shortlist your options. Even if you’re not entirely sure what it is that you want to study, by reading up on different courses you’re bound to find areas of study that really spark your interest!
Choose where you want to live
Going to university is a big decision, let alone if you’re moving to a new city or country to study. Once narrowing your search down to a handful of courses that appeal to you, the next thing to do is consider where you want to live. First things first, decide how big of a priority living close to home is for you. If you’re someone that worries you might get homesick and would prefer the option of popping back home last minute to see family, friends or pets, it’s probably not a good (or cheap!) idea to move 400 miles away.
On the other hand, you may be excited by the prospect of moving somewhere new for the experience. If possible, visiting university open days is a good way to suss out the city and decide if it’s for you. Otherwise, just have a look through the university’s website or use YouTube to get a feel of the location. You may decide you want to live in a buzzing city, or prefer a more chilled countryside campus. Other preferences such as close proximity to a beach, national parks or local attractions may help you to break down your options.
Choose a type of university that suits you
Most universities will have their own unique selling points – such as being renowned for sport science, media and communications or languages. A useful tool to decide which universities are specialised in your particular area of study is to use the Complete University Guide’s Rankings by Subject. You don’t need to go to the best university in your field, but it may help you to take advantage of enhanced course-related facilities and tuition.
Universities also differ in the way in which they are physically laid out. Some are campus universities, which resemble self-contained student communities, whereas universities in busy cities tend to have different buildings spread throughout town which you may be required to travel between for lectures.
What’s more, you’ll find that whilst some university courses are heavily assessment-based, others are more weighted towards exams. Consider under which option you perform best and feel most comfortable. Then, use this criteria to narrow down your options!
Think about finances
Where you choose to go to university will have a knock-on effect on your overall cost of living. It’s important to consider the financial implications of your chosen university destination to ensure you avoid any unwanted surprises! For instance, if you’re coming to the UK from abroad or moving to a different part of the country, you may be in for a shock when your first shopping bill ends up much more expensive than you were expecting. A useful way to determine the local cost of living is to search for the cost of a few staple household items, which will vary from city to city. This could include loo roll, a loaf of bread or a pint!
Think about what extras your uni offers
Once you’ve managed to shortlist a few universities, determining which one is right for you can be done by looking at what they can offer beyond your studies. Most higher education institutions will have a diverse range of societies – from competitive sports to debate societies, as well as film, cocktail and vegan societies. Pretty much whatever you can think of, there’s a society for it! Thus, find out what’s on offer that matches your interests, hobbies, lifestyle, nationality or dream profession. One of our true student ambassadors - Niamh - has written a whole separate blog about the benefits of joining a university society, which you can find here.
Alongside societies, there are programs offered by various universities that you may find help steer you towards a certain one. For instance, if you are keen to get as much hands-on experience as possible, your best option may be to go for a university that offers sandwich courses, which include a placement year in industry. Additionally, if you’d love the chance to study abroad, you may be well matched with a university that is linked to Erasmus study abroad programmes or has partner universities which you can relocate to for a semester in another country.
We hope this helps to make the whole process of deciding on a university a little less overwhelming! You won’t get the full experience and truly know whether a university is right for you until you actually go there, but as shown above, there are plenty of ways which can help steer you in the right direction.