5 steps to choosing a university

When you are doing your A Levels, there is a phrase that your parents, teachers and siblings love to use: ‘University is the best time of your life’.

Of course, they’re not lying when they say this. University is a place where you can finally get the independence you’ve been craving, go out whenever you want, eat what you want, make lots of new friends and generally have an amazing time.

However, this buzz phrase does add to the pressure that exists when you go on the search for the perfect university. Hopefully, these 5 steps will provide simple guidelines to follow and helpful criteria to consider when embarking on your search to choose the best University for you.

1. Research the universities

With there being hundreds of universities throughout the UK, whittling these down to just 5 options can be a challenge. One of the ways to make sure you choose the right university is to do your research. Go to the meetings your school offers and talk to any older brothers or sisters; they all have helped others or have been through the same ordeal that you’re in now, so often they can offer some really helpful advice.

Something I also found useful was the Times Online Good University Guide. It costs just £1 to subscribe and provides you with a whole list of universities at your finger tips. For instance, if you thought you might be interested in maths but don’t really know which universities to start looking at, it very handily brings them up on-screen for you.

Furthermore, order as many prospectuses (yes, this is a weird word) as you can! I myself became a bit of a collector throughout the year and found it useful to just have something which had all the information I needed in one place.

2. Choose the right course

It might be the case that for years you’ve been set on becoming a doctor/lawyer/architect/etc. And you know exactly how you’re going to get there. However, for most of us mere mortals it’s a little trickier than that. Determining what you want to do for the rest of your life can be very daunting; and even if you try your hardest to choose, it’s not usually something that you can decide over night.

When I was trying to choose a course I thought I might be interested in doing about 5 different courses. Eventually, after going to the different subject talks at the open days, I realised that while some subjects I dreaded the sound of, others seemed really interesting. So even though I felt I was naturally better at some subjects I decided to do one that I could see myself really enjoying. Now that I’m at uni, I’m so glad I took a bit of a risk. Therefore, do a course that you think sounds interesting because you’re more likely to enjoy it, work hard at it and as a result end up with a job that you actually like.

3. Make sure you are realistic with target grades

Your grades are obviously another influential part of choosing a university. When considering these, it is best not to pigeon-hole yourself in a certain grade boundary; either under or over estimating your ability is all too easy to do.

It is generally best to, alongside the courses with the grades you’re expecting, look at a few universities that you think have slightly higher and lower grades. This way when it comes to waiting to hear back for offers or on results day you don’t end up kicking yourself for not covering all the possible outcomes. This is one of the most important points about picking the right university.

4. Location, Location, Location

Is university the time for you to finally break free from your parents and eradicate the risk of them popping in every weekend ‘just to check you’re still alive’? Do you prefer having a wide variety of pubs and clubs to flit through or a few places that you know really well? Do these places have the facilities to offer the activities which you love and are keen to continue?

These are just some of the questions that you might like to consider. Moving to a new location is supposed to be exciting and not something you dread. That’s why going to open days can be so important as you realise the pictures you liked the look of in the prospectus’ are nothing like the reality. Also as cheesy as this sounds, the feeling you get when you walk around the university is not to be ignored. If it feels right then that’s probably because it is.

5. Student life is important

Definitely worth a gander are the ‘student life’ talks. These give you a feel of the student nights, societies and extra opportunities on offer (such as the student paper and radio). Obviously, your main priority is to get a degree you’re proud of; however, these are the things which will probably take up most of your time and help you to enjoy your time at university. After all, it is 3 years of your life, might as well enjoy them.

Hopefully these tips have been helpful and knowing a bit more about it all has eased any slithers of panic you may be feeling. However, it is also important to mention that whichever university you end up at, whether it was your first choice or not, you will still have a life changing and exciting few years. Finally, remember that choosing the right university is not easy and it takes time so don’t rush it.

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