Choosing your university can be a huge decision and will be something that effects the next 3 to 4 years of your life. This is why it is important to do as much research as possible to make sure you choose the right university for you.
One of the biggest mistakes a lot of students make is picking a university because their friends chose to go there. Just because it suits your friends does not necessarily mean it is the best university for you. In fact, the majority of students have a better time when they go to a different university because they are able to meet new people and spend time with new friends instead of old friends. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to cut your old friends off, you can always invite them to come and see you on the weekends. It just pushes you out of your comfort zone a little bit and allows you to speak to others.
Think about the area you want to live in
Lota of students want to stay within an hour from their home city. Whilst others are happy to move to the other end of the country. So, what you need to do is find out all the universities that are within your radar so you can clearly see your options.
It is a good idea to check public transport links to these cities so you can see how easy or difficult it is for you to move back and forth between your home and your university accommodation.
If you have a car, make sure you check out the route you will have to take if you want to take your car to university and see if you are comfortable with it.
Think about your course
The first thing you will need to do is decide what course you want to do. Picking a course can be extremely tricky so it is good to look into the type of content you will be learning about. Additionally, see how the content is assessed. Some courses offer exams whilst some offer coursework.
When thinking about which courses you want to do, you also need to think about the entry requirements which will be found on the course web page. If you think the entry requirements may be too high for your current grades that you are achieving, then you need to put your focus elsewhere on a university that has entry requirements you can meet.
Compare course content
Once you have found the course you want, you need to see which university offer this course within your radar. Take a look at each courses content and see what they do slightly differently, this will help you to decide. If you are not so good at exams, then you may want to select the course at a certain university that offer coursework.
Some courses will offer slightly different modules so it will be good to see which modules are of more interest to you. Make sure to look at how the content is learned, are their workshops, seminars or lectures, or a mix of all three. Some classes may be praticial and some may be non-interactive. Look at home many hours are included within the course. Some courses are 9-5 Monday to Friday whereas some course may only need you in class 12 hours a week.
If you are commuting it may be best to find a course that does not need you in every day.
Look at extra opportunities
There may be additional opportunities that come with each course, such as the option to do a placement year or a study abroad year.
Make sure to not only look within your course but see what extra opportunities are offered with in the university. For example, lots of universities offer part-time jobs, additional employability help, some universities are partnered with university abroad and may offer exchange programs that you can take part in.
For example, I was offered the chance to work in America for 3 months over summer between my 1st year and my 2nd year. Which is something I would never have done if I did not attend this university.
Attend the open days
Open days can be an excellent opportunity for new students to get to know not only the campus, but the city a bit more. One of the things I regret not doing on my open days is taking a look around the city. Fortunately, I loved it, however, lots of people turn up and realise the city is nothing like what they thought it was.
By attending open days, you can get to speak to students currently on the course you want to take, and you can ask more questions. This is one of the best ways to find out more and get a better idea of life at university.
Check out the accommodation
Additionally, while you are looking at the campus and the city on your open days. Make sure you take a look at the accommodation. This can be a huge decider. If you prefer studios to halls, or vice versa, it is important to know what is actually available to you.
I would also recommend researching private housing as there will be lots of companies offering student accommodation that are not associated with the university. They may offer more modern rooms or lower cost rooms.
Check out reviews form past students
If you manage to get to attend the open days, then listening to current or past students experiences is one of the best ways to learn more about the university.
Of course, everyone will have different experiences and university might not be for everyone, but it can give you a better idea of student life.
If you so not manage to attend the open days, then there will be forums or Facebook groups where students can ask questions to current students.
Check the University tables
If you are looking to attend a university that has a good reputation, then check out the university tables. One of the best tables is The Guardian. You can see where your university ranks overall, as well as seeing where they rank for specific courses.
The city it is based in
As mentioned earlier, the city your university is based in can play a bit part in your decision. A good idea is to take a walk around it, see what shops and restaurants are available and whether there’s any places to walk.
If you regularly use the gym, check out how close the university is and research the types of gyms there are available.
Campus-based Vs City – based
What a lot of people do not realise is that some universities are campus-based, and some have buildings spread out all over the city. Meaning you would have to walk to different buildings. It also means accommodation is not all in one place.
There are lots of factors that go into finding the best university for you. So, I would recommend creating a table to see the pros and cons of each university.
It can be the case that you may not enjoy your course when you start it, if the course is not the one for you then there is always the opportunity to switch courses or even switch universities and try again.