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Choosing a university

Choosing a university is an important decision so we have put together a list of things that you should be considering to help you in this decision making process.

Choosing which course to study.
Of course the decisions start long before sixth form. If you have an idea of what you might like to do in the future then you hopefully will have made sure you are taking the right A ‘level choices.  If you do already know what you want to study, then choosing your university will be easier.

If you do not know what you want to do in the future, or even what you want to study, you will need to explore the options a bit more. Why not do something as simple as sit down and go through an A to Z of careers, reading them out one at a time and seeing if you fancy it or not. It might not be a very technical approach, but it will certainly identify what you don’t want to do and you may even find some patterns or similarities in the things that sound quite interesting. This exercise may help to focus on the subjects that might be useful and if there are similar types of work you may be able to draw up a short list of subjects to study.

What you must bear in mind is that studying a subject at university is demanding and requires a lot of self drive and independent work. If you are studying a subject for the sake of doing something, or your parents want you to study it and you don’t have a genuine interest in the subject, you will find university a long hard slog. Loving what you studying will help you to do well and stay motivated so it is important to try not to be influenced by what other people think would be better for you.  Make sure you enjoy the subject as you are the one who has to study it.

A useful tool which can help you to focus in on the options available to you is BestCourse4Me.com which lets you compare data about things like graduate employment rates and salaries for different universities and careers.

Choosing which University

Once you have settled on a course of study, you can then start to look at the different universities. There are many influencing factors to consider when choosing which universities to apply to and there are lots of places to help you research the different options before making any choices.

The first place to look is https://www.ukcoursefinder.com. Here you can search for different courses and find out which universities offer the courses  you are interested in. If you are still unsure what to study, there is also an interests questionnaire you can take, which might give you some more ideas.

If your have chosen a very specific course, then you may find that your choices are already limited by the institutions that offer this course, but for more general subjects such as the core academic subjects, the choice could be overwhelming, so how do you start to whittle it down?

Entry requirements
Each university will have its different entry requirements and you will have an idea of what you are likely to achieve in the A ‘levels.  Students are able to apply to five universities and it is advisable to pick one “ambitious” choice, three attainable ones and one back up, or insurance choice, which you should be able to achieve comfortably. Take a look at the entry requirements for different universities and you will know whether they are out of reach or realistic choices for you.

Location
It may be that you would prefer to be in a particular part of the country, maybe not too far from home, or even staying at home, or perhaps as far away as possible! You may decide you want to be down south or up north and that already reduces the choices you have to work with. Secondly the type of university may influence your choice. There is a big difference between living on a campus university in a provincial town to attending a city university in London, Birmingham or Manchester. Which would suit you better? Would you prefer the comfort of a safe, self contained environment or the excitement of a cosmopolitan city?

Get a feel for the place
Each university offers its own unique atmosphere and environment. You can attend open days before applying to universities as well as afterwards and by visiting a few different ones, you will start to get a feel for the ones you like and feel comfortable with and those you don’t like.  Parents are always welcome at open days or you are also welcome to take a friend to help you make decisions. Make sure to take a look at the accommodation while you’re there too, as this does vary enormously from one university to the other and could also affect how you feel about living there. Don’t forget that each course will be slightly different at each university with different options, so while you are there chat to representatives from your hosen subject department and make sure that the options available will suit you.
Student life also varies enormously from one university to the other. Do you enjoy sports, night life; perhaps you have more a cultural inclination towards theatre and the arts. Talk to students who show you round and find out what it is that students do in their spare time. What are the clubs and societies and do they cater for your particular interests? The extra curricula activities play a large part in the university experience and so it is also important to consider these when making choices.

Financial Considerations
The cost of tuition fees at each university is set by the university itself and can vary from one to the other for what can appear to be the same course. Make sure you compare the costs and content of each course you are interested in as well as the accommodation costs and cost of living in each town or city. Living in London and travelling on the tube will cost a lot more than living in other cities in the north of England such as Manchester or Sheffield and of course than living in a more remote university such as St Andrews.
More and more universities are also now offering scholarships, grants and bursaries to help students with their funding. It is also worth investigating what alternative funding opportunities are available for students at each university, as this may enable you to reduce your student debt.

League tables
Some people will argue that too much emphasis is placed on league tables, but the truth is people do pay attention to them. Many universities will tell you as you go to visit them that they do not like the league tables as they vary depending on the criteria applied and they are not really a true reflection of the university, and then in the next sentence they will proclaim how well they fare in one league table or another. It is definitely worth investigating how your choices fare in the league tables as well as the national student survey (https://www.thestudentsurvey.com )for student satisfaction. Graduate employability is also worth considering, as ultimately the aim of going to university is to get a better job. Having said all that, we would not recommend basing your choices purely on the league tables, which is why we have put it fifth, after all our other considerations.

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