If you are reading this, chances are you are struggling with making a decision about what university you want to attend. If you are just at the beginning of your UCAS process, it can seem overwhelming. There are hundreds of universities out there, and many variations of the same course available. Heading to open days, speaking with representatives and student ambassadors, and simply exploring the town can all help with deciding what your top choices are.
1. Don’t pick a university just because your friends are going
It can be tempting to follow your best friends to their dream universities. You can all start this next chapter together and explore a new city. However, their dream university is not necessarily your dream university, so basing your future decisions on this is not a good idea. If you have taken the time to research all options and you and your friends all like the same university then that’s great! But make sure you are selecting it for the right reasons, and try not to be influenced by the actions of others.
2. Location can be important
The location of your university might not be something you are that concerned about. If you live in Devon, maybe you have been looking at universities in Newcastle or even Edinburgh! This is great and you shouldn’t restrict your choices based on proximity to your home. However, you should consider distance depending on the type of person you are. If you enjoy spending lots of time with your family and want to go home every other weekend to spend time with them, it isn’t the best idea to go to a university 4-5 hours away. Also if you are nervous about moving to university because you are worried you will be lonely, having family and friends nearby can help you ease into your first year. Not only will you spend half of your time on trains and coaches, it can also start to cost you a lot of money. Of course, if you are heading to university and wish to spend as much time there as possible, the distance is fairly irrelevant. Just be prepared for a long commute back at Christmas!
3. Explore the city - not just the university
Of course, you are heading to university and it is important that you are happy with this first and foremost. However, the city also plays a big role in this too. You will be living here for the next 3 or 4 years, so it should also be somewhere that you like. If you are able to head to an in person open day, it is worth heading to the city centre to see what it is like. Are there the main shops that you are used to? What are the nearest supermarkets? Is there a nice selection of bars, restaurants and cafes? If you like the look of everything, then there is a good chance that you will like the city and can quickly get used to life there.
4. Optional Modules
If you are struggling with selecting a university after considering all of these factors, it is worth comparing the courses themselves. Something a lot of students enjoy is the ability to study an optional module (sometimes called Free Electives) every semester. This is a module that is not directly related to your chosen course, and can sometimes be in a different school/department. These are graded and they do count towards your final grade, however the weighting of this module will vary among universities. If you are wishing to study English Literature for instance, you could end up studying a film, business, psychology, French, or even an anthropology module as well! If this is something you are interested in, then you should see how flexible universities are with their courses, as some may not offer optional modules.
5. What extracurricular activities are on offer?
If you are finding a lot of similarities between your prospective universities, perhaps it is time to look into what else is on offer at these universities. For example, have you always wanted to go on a year or a semester abroad? Most universities have some form of Year abroad programme available, but the destinations can vary amongst universities depending on who they have partnered with. Also, some universities may not offer it for all courses so it is important to check if your course is able to offer this - if this is something that is important to you. Alternatively, if there is a particular club, sports team or society that you would like to join at university, asking a student ambassador for further information can help you with decision making.
It may not be the most important thing when deciding on a university, but if accommodation is something that you have been worried about, researching the options available at your top universities can help you decide. Of course, your first year accommodation isn’t going to be your forever home but it will be your first step into university. Ensuring that it is somewhere you are comfortable and happy with is important, as this can have a large impact on you. There are also a few different types of student accommodation on offer, so selecting the right type depending on your preferences is also important. Even if you aren’t able to check out all of the halls in person, lots of universities have created virtual tours of halls and of the campus, like this one here. So you can save yourself valuable time and money, and do all of your comparisons from the comfort of your own home!
Of course, this may not be an easy decision for you. Some people go to a university and simply know: this is the one for me. While others like lots of universities, and whittling this down to a top 5 can be painstakingly difficult. Keep these factors in mind when weighing up your options, and hopefully it helps you to make the right decision!