3 min read

How to Choose a University

How to Choose a University

by Caroline Hardaker

Trying to narrow down your higher education longlist? Read on for 5 ways to REALLY get to know your university choices…

Choosing a university is the biggest decision of your life so far. At this point, you’ll likely have chosen a subject to study, but you still haven’t worked out which universities to apply to. What practical steps can you take to narrow your choices down, particularly at the moment when you can't physically visit each university? And how will you know you’ve made the right decision?

Follow our simple 5-step guide to how to choose a university that’s right for you...

Research the university’s reputation

University is where your career begins – so do your research to find out how your chosen universities sit in official rankings. The Complete University Guide is often a good place to start!

Ask your parents or teachers what they know about the university. Is it a Russell Group university? Has it won awards for teaching or research? What is the university doing to change the world?

If you already know which degree you want to study, find out which universities rank well for that subject. Some university websites will even give you an idea of the student:staff ratio, and the lower the ratio, the smaller the classes and more one-on-one time with your tutors. This could be really important one day when you need a little extra help with a challenging module!

What do current students say?

Who knows more about what studying at university is like than its students? From campus life to the realities of lectures – students will tell the absolute truth when it comes to the practicalities of student life.

Explore the university’s website to find student blogs, or browse YouTube to find student campus tours and featured videos. Some universities have Unibuddy (we do!), which means you can ask a current student anything from course queries to advice on how they chose their accommodation.

Take part in an Open Day

Sometimes choosing the right university for you comes down to seeing the campus, and when better than during an Open Day? Although things are a little different at the moment because of the global pandemic, you can still take part in virtual Open Days which are designed to give you an in-depth and as real an experience as possible. 

As well as specific subject sessions, you can tour the campus, view the undergraduate accommodation, attend your first lecture, and find out more about the Students' Union and what sports and societies are on offer.

An Open Day is an opportunity to really get a feel for the university campus atmosphere and the vibe of the city or town. And once Covid-19 restrictions are lifted and you can attend an Open Day in person, don't forget to explore the wider area and any nearby shops, cultural venues, cinemas, and theatres, too. What’s the nightlife like? If this town or city’s going to be your home for the next three years you need to be excited by it!

Explore university accommodation

Make the most of a university Open Day – virtual or in person – by touring student accommodation. This might mean viewing different residences or exploring different styles of student flats and bedrooms. Find out which halls are located right in the heart of campus and which are a little further away.

Don’t necessarily dismiss halls that mean a longer journey to campus. Some of these residences have extra perks, such as larger bedrooms, low rents, or free parking.

Try to imagine yourself living at each residence from the historic Victorian halls to the ultra-modern scene-stealers. You might be surprised by which one feels most like home.

Will the university suit your lifestyle?

It might be that your top university choices are already close to where you live now, but if you’re thinking of travelling far from home it’s important to look at travel options.

Universities that might seem far away will likely have a mainline train station, and a student railcard will save you 1/3 on the cost of travel. There might even be an airport close by.

Sometimes cities aren’t as far away as they seem. Newcastle is only a three-hour train journey from London, and a flight from Bristol takes less than hour (and can cost as little as £25). Some students like to travel home regularly while others want to find a university that’s far enough from home to feel like a real adventure. Which are you?

So, now you know how to choose a university that’s right for you. As long as you’ve done your research and spent time choosing the course that’s right for you – you’re on the right path to finding your new home from home.

Good luck!

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