How do I choose where to study?
With more than 100 universities in the UK alone, narrowing down your UCAS choices to five, and then eventually just one, can be pretty terrifying. So how do you begin the process?
First of all it’s important to consider the student loan you’ll be receiving. If you decide to live away from home, you’ll receive more loan to help you cover accommodation costs – which means you’ll have to pay back more. So you may wish to consider going to a university near your home town to save you some money, but think about it carefully as many claim you don’t have the full university experience without living away from home. You also receive a higher loan if you attend university in London, to cover the higher living costs.
After you’ve considered this, here are some factors you might want to consider when choosing which university to study at:
Distance: this all depends on how far away from home you want to be. Do you want to be close enough so you can easily pop home for the weekend for your mum to do your washing? Or do you want to be so far away that your parents can’t be bothered to do the long journey? Remember, if you’re really far away and you need to get home in an emergency it might be really expensive, so it’s something to consider.
Campus/city: would you like to go to a university which is in a city setting, where your lectures might be scattered around and among normal town buildings, or to a campus university where your university is split off in its own area just for students? Some people say that campus universities fuel a better sense of community, but others say that they’re not busy enough to compare with an exciting city life. Make sure you visit some of each to find out which type of university setting you prefer.
Future location: do you know where you’d like to go after graduation to work? If you have only ever seen university as a stop-gap between school and work to get your qualification and move on, then it probably doesn’t matter where you go. However, if you know you want to work in a particular city after you graduate, it might be a good idea to consider going to university in that city to help you get to know the area and its people.
League tables: a number of people say that league tables really don’t matter but it might be a small consideration for you if you’re really stuck between two places. Perhaps the reputation of a one university may decide it for you over the other, as it could look better on your CV. Bear them in mind but don’t let them become the be-all and end-all!
Cost: the price of living can vary depending on where you’re living. If you go to university in a big city (especially London) prices of houses and flats will be higher. It is a fairly true assumption too, that the further north you live, the cheaper housing is. Also if you live in a student town rather than a big city, you are more likely to get good student deals as local clubs and shops will want to draw you in.
Social life: of course at university social life is a huge factor. Check out local clubs, bars and restaurants, and see what other activities are on offer. If you’re an English or Theatre student, being able to see plays regularly may be important to you. Talk to current students too and find out about the social life in the places you could be living.
Students’ Union: the SU, particularly if you go to a campus university, is likely to play a huge part of your university life. Are there a lot of societies you’re interested in that you can get involved with? If you’re sporty, are the sports teams very active? And finally, potentially most importantly, check what the support services are like at the SU in case you ever need help with a tricky situation. You never know what’s going to happen!
Student satisfaction: again, this is a silly statistic to go by because it all depends on the experience of the individual, but it might be useful to check the experiences and reviews of other students so you can be aware of any potential issues. No university is perfect!
So the best thing to do is create a long list of all the universities you’re interested in, and go through the points above, gradually crossing off places that are not suitable. Eventually you’ll end up with a list of likely around eight or ten which you’ll want to attend an open day for, and from then on you’ll probably decide by the feeling and vibe you get from the places. Deciding on five choices is daunting, but far easier than you expect it to be once you get going!
You can use the tool below from RealUniGuide.com to look up particular universities. You can compare and contrast them, and even filter different institutions based on the price of a pint!