If you’re looking at applying to university it can seem like there is an overwhelming amount of choice. You do have a lot of options, but with good research you can start to narrow it down quite quickly.
So what do I need to think about?
- Subject – This is probably the most important step on the road to choice, as the best reason for going to university is because you want to get a degree in a particular subject! Think about what you could feel passionately enough about to study for (at least) 3 years – if the idea fills you with boredom you are looking at the wrong subject. Don’t forget to check the entry requirements for the subject you are interested in.
- Job – Some jobs require you to have taken a particular subject at university (e.g. medicine, architecture, engineering) so it is obviously important to have done your research into any occupation you are interested in. There are also big differences between subjects and universities in how many of their past students find employment, so you might want to look at this too. Remember though, university is about getting a degree, not a job.
- Location – Don’t pick a university in an area you do not want to live in! Open days are crucial for getting a feel for the university and the area, so make sure you visit the universities you are interested in (this is overlooked amazingly often). If you are planning to stay at home and commute to university make sure that you consider the pros and cons of this carefully as it makes for a very different university experience.
- Entry requirements – There are vast differences between universities and courses in terms of what you need to get into them. It’s vital to be realistic here; there is little point setting your heart on a course/university that only makes offers of A*s and As if you are predicted Cs. Look at your predicted grades and then match these to the universities and courses that make similar graded offers. You get to make 5 applications, so you can afford to have one more ambitious choice, but it’s also important to have a back-up (lower grade entry) choice as well to make sure you prepare for all eventualities.
- Cost – There are always costs involved with going to university, but these can vary quite a lot between universities. Don’t just look at the fee amounts, also consider living costs (these vary from area to area), financial support (e.g. bursaries from the university) and whether or not you’ll be able to get a part-time/holiday job.
- Learning style – This will vary a lot depending on what type of course you are studying; the more academic subjects (like English) are taught very differently to the more vocational subjects (like Nursing). Different universities also teach in different ways, and when comparing courses you should definitely think about how you prefer to learn. Look at things like how much choice you get in what you study (units/modules), contact hours, type of teaching (lectures, seminars etc.), type of assessment, amount of independent study, number of tutors, quantity of 1:1 support, feedback arrangements etc.
- Lifestyle – University is about getting a degree and (hopefully) improving your future prospects, but it is also about having a great 3 years! Make sure that the universities you are applying for are a good match for your interests (sports, drama, dance, debate etc.); you want to be a happy undergraduate!
Websites to research universities and courses: