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5 Tips for Researching Universities Virtually

5 Tips for Researching Universities Virtually

by Amy Cousins

If you were planning on applying to university this year or next, you may feel that not being able to visit university campuses makes imagining university life difficult.

But although your research journey has changed a little because of Covid-19 restrictions, the destination is still the same: you'll still be able to study at your dream university; you'll  grow and learn; you'll create everlasting memories; and you'll make friendships that last a lifetime.

In this blog post, we’ve put together some suggestions on how to choose a university when you can't visit in person. From navigating virtual Open Days to tips on how to critically think about which institution is the best fit for you, read on to find out more.

1. Attend virtual Open and Offer Holder Days 


When you can't make it to campus in person, a virtual event is a great way to get a feel for how a university operates and help you choose which uni to go to. 

This may seem like an obvious one, but virtual Open Days are often overlooked or seen as interchangeable from just looking through a university’s website. However, this is not the case. In fact, virtual Open Days take months of planning, and are designed to give you an in-depth and as real an experience as possible

Virtual Open Days include video introductions to subjects from academic staff. videos and virtual tours of the city and campus, the opportunity to chat online with current students and academic staff, and the chance to speak to staff from student services such as accommodation and finance.

If you’re currently an offer holder, why not attend a virtual Offer Holder Day? Many of our schools and subjects are running these events to give you a deeper insight into your chosen course. A virtual Offer Holder Day is a particularly good idea if you’re currently concerned about the future of your studies, as seeing the university running these events, while engaging with academics and staff is sure to put your mind at ease.


2. Explore YouTube accounts

During a traditional Open Day, outside of the events and talks you’re likely to attend, you also get the opportunity to walk through campus, explore the library, the Students' Union and more. 

However, picturing yourself in these places gets a little tricky when you’re on an Open Day on your sofa! 

YouTube videos are a great way to decide if you can really see yourself studying and thriving at a university.

Browse footage of the university itself and surrounding areas. Even if a video or clip isn’t specifically about the course or field you want to study, the content, footage and people involved are a telling insight into the look and feel of a university. 

3. Seek out student-generated content

student gen

Who better to tell you how great a university is than existing students? Many university blogs include student-generated content where existing students and alumni describe their experiences of their chosen university. For example, our Student Stories blogs are packed full with student diaries and top tips for prospective Newcastle University students. 

What’s more, platforms such as Unibuddy give you the chance to speak directly with existing students about your chosen area of study; perfect if you're still wondering what uni course is right for you!

Plus, there's always plenty of current student-generated content to be found on social media, especially in story takeovers and campus pictures on Instagram.


4. Take organised notes to paint as vivid a picture as possible


If you’re exclusively researching universities online it’s easy to get confused, particularly if you’re researching quite a few. We recommend actively taking notes as you do your research, and keeping your notes as organised as possible.

However, don’t just write down what you thought about the course and lectures, for example, but add buzzwords for how each online experience made you feel. Did the lecturers on the virtual Open Day seem welcoming and approachable? Did the exterior of the university in a YouTube video make you feel inspired and excited? Or, perhaps chatting to the existing students on Unibuddy made you feel reassured and comfortable?

Attaching emotions to your online research is a great way to bridge the gap between virtual and reality, equipping you with a mix of facts and feelings so you know how to choose a university that's right for you.


5. Research the local area 


One component you may miss when you don’t attend a physical Open Day is getting a feel of the surrounding area. When you visit an Open Day, you may walk from the train station to campus or pop into a nearby restaurant for lunch. Though it may not seem it, every part of your day factors into the decision-making process.

So, during your research, look into the areas surrounding the university. If you’re a musician, see if there’s a lively music scene. Or, if you’re vegan, why not see if there are any vegan cafes near the university that you could study in during your breaks?

Here at Newcastle University, we include city tours on our virtual Open Days because we understand how important it is to feel safe and 'at home' during your studies. So, look out for those if you’re keen to get an insight into life up North! 

Adapting to constantly changing circumstances can feel intimidating at first, but hopefully our suggestions have made you feel a little more in control. We wish you all the best in your research, and don't forget to register your interest if you'd like to attend one of our virtual Open Days this summer. 

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