The top 10 things to think about when choosing your university
If you are thinking about moving on to university then you have probably had the ‘reputation’ talk with your sixth form tutor and it’s true, reputation is really important but what else should you think about?
How do you know which uni is going to be the best one for you and avoid a potentially costly mistake?
In this post, we’re looking at some of the other things you need to consider, based on research and of course our own university experience!
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So let's do the reputation talk first of all.
Yes, reputation is important, and doubly so if you are looking at doing a subject that your target uni specialises in.
Russell Group universities are highly thought of throughout the world and will always receive an approving nod from future potential employers but they aren’t the be-all and end-all.
Think about universities that have developed an excellent reputation for specialisms in specific departments. For example, Bournemouth University is exceptionally well thought of in film and TV production circles, The University of Leicester comes top for space tech and archaeology and Loughboro is world-renowned for sports science.
Whatever university you are thinking of, consider how you would defend your choice to a potential employer in 5 years time, Because they will ask!
#2 Is it the right course for you
Don’t let the fact that you have got into a famous uni blind you to the fact that the course might not be the ideal one for you.
With upwards of 20% of students regretting their choice of course it is important to be aware that not all courses are the same.
Take a good look at the prospectus and make sure you dig down into what is covered and what is not.
If you’d really like a course that offers a placement or one that gives you field experience then make sure that’s included.
Speak with the tutor and really make sure you understand what you are signing up to because you don’t want to be one of the 20%.
#3 How expensive is it to live in the town or city.
You’re going to be spending a lot of time and money in the city of your choice so it’s worth asking how expensive it is to actually get by.
As an example, there’s a massive variance in the average cost of a month’s groceries between Milton Keynes (£272) and Liverpool (£144) meaning that your loan just goes that much further.
Remember that the more expensive a city is to live in, the fewer options you have for fun and down-time.
#4 Where will you live?
If you choose a uni near home will you be happy living with mum and dad?
Have you checked out the halls? Are they clean and modern? Expensive?
What about a house share? What are the local property rental prices like and is there good availability for student let's?
What about your bills? Is council tax a ridiculous price and are utilities included in your rental?
Understanding the housing situation and whether you’ll be able to afford your chosen option is absolutely vital because the last thing you need to be worrying about during your time at University is where you are going to live or how you are going to pay the rent.
#5 How will you get there?
Sounds stupid but we’ve all heard stories about people who chose courses that were based hundreds of miles away from their friends and family.
Most people like to get away from the ‘rents when they go to university but in all seriousness, picking a city too far away can often leave you feeling lonely and cut off.
Think about travel options and the cost of the monthly trip back home to get your washing done.
#6 What are the facilities like?
We’d expect any UK university to have a top-class library and catering facilities are usually pretty good but what about the other facilities?
If you like swimming does your choice have a great pool?
Enjoy climbing? Maybe your new university has an epic indoor wall.
Whatever your interest, choosing a uni that has excellent facilities makes your time there so much more enjoyable and university facilities are usually free or very low cost for their students.
#7 Could you see yourself living there?
Did you know that more than half of students at both Glasgow and Edinburgh Universities end up staying in the city after the end of their courses?
In fact, a high proportion of students do end up making a life for themselves in their university city and it’s a valid question to ask - could you see yourself staying there?
Spend some time visiting the city and get to know the place.
Sure you are at uni to learn but you need to live in an environment that you enjoy and that you feel secure in so we’d always suggest investing a few days in developing your knowledge of the local environment.
If it turns out that the town isn’t for you then you don’t have to spend the next few years regretting your decision.
#8 Is there a lively extracurricular scene?
Lifelong friendships are forged at university and they often start when people meet up in a club or society.
Check out what clubs are available and what sort of events your uni gets involved in.
Being a member of a club where you enjoy the topic and you are able to hang out with like-minded people makes such a massive difference to your university experience that you’ll be really glad you made the effort.
It doesn’t matter whether it is extreme bee-keeping or three-legged racing, the important point is that you will be making connections, developing your network and beginning friendships that may well last your whole life.
#9 Compare the market
When you go to an open day, the university you visit could seem like the best thing since sliced bread but making a choice based on a population of one is a big mistake.
Make sure you visit a few campuses and compare what’s on offer.
As Ruben Resendez, the president of university service company Adhere says “we deal with universities around the world every day and one of the things that always surprises me is the diversity in what is being offered
“ There are a lot of higher education choices out there for students and so comparing a number of different universities with one another adds real value to the choice process”
Adhere specialise in matching students with the right universities based on their course preferences, making sure that time isn’t wasted looking at something that just wouldn’t be a good fit.
Organise a grading system, giving each a mark out of ten for your most important criteria and then wait a while before making a choice.
It’s always possible you could be swayed by a glitzy cafeteria and a really personable intake officer but in the cold light of day realise that actually, the course on offer at another university would be better, even if they don’t serve 12 types of hot chocolate.
Carrying out a methodical grading means that you are less likely to be ruled by your heart and more likely to get the right uni for you.
Also, check out the league tables. Some compare the educational value of courses, some look at student experience but do a trawl and see how others view your candidate universities
#10 The nightlife
You didn’t think we were going to leave this off the list did you?
Some of the best memories of university are made on freshers’ nights out so check out what is on offer.
Not everyone wants to spend their time partying in the glamorous nightspots in London’s West End but most people want to be able to at least have a good Saturday night out.
One word of caution though - don’t choose a flat next door to a nightclub. It may be convenient in year 1 but when you are writing up your dissertation you’ll wish you’d chosen a cottage in the Cotswolds!
Think also about inexpensive ways to spend your downtime because nothing is more depressing than spending a wet Sunday afternoon cooped up in your halls.
Choosing your university - understand what is important to you
We hope you have enjoyed our list and that it’s given you some food for thought.
The most important piece of advice we can give is to decide what is important to you and not to be swayed too much by what other people think.
Decide right at the start what you’d like to get out of university life and then make up your own list of things that are important and that you want to see from a great campus.
Whichever university you choose, we’re sure you’ll have a great time.