Student Blog

Choosing a university: the advice you don’t often hear

How time flies. The UCAS deadline is creeping closer, and everybody’s talking about it. For some, the choice is obvious: they have always dreamed of one university, and the very idea of anything else is as repulsive as a cold school dinner. For others, the choice is baffling: there are a lot of options out there, and they make a decision on the basis of frantic late-night searches. Either way, how do you compile that elusive list of five?

Your parents, your teachers and your postman probably have ideas about how you should choose a university. The Complete University guide describes the top five factors influencing university choice and, predictably, course content and overall academic reputation come top. A university’s position in the league table is certainly important when it comes to employability. Everyone knows that.

But they don’t know that, when it comes to university choice, you can feel a swirling mass of far less quantifiable emotions. Even if their parents nag them, some students worry they’ll be homesick as soon as they leave home. Others are haunted by a vision of standing alone while popular people laugh hysterically at the bar. They might not want to leave their friends behind.

Then there’s a problem of a partner. What on earth do you do if you’re in a happy relationship? The Independent argues that strong couples can survive the distance. And if you’re not a strong couple, you wouldn’t want to end up at the wrong university because of your ex. That would build up a lot of resentment.

So it’s clear that you should choose a university that’s suited to you and you alone. But how do you know which one that is?  Does clubbing make you happier than studying? Quite possibly. It would be a mistake to be miserable because you push yourself too hard.

On the other hand, you wouldn’t want to go to a university where you just weren’t being pushed hard enough. After going out every night for a week, you might be the sort of person who wants to get on with your degree. With all this in mind, I recommend the following:

Do your research

Top universities scream about their results. But they’re a bit quieter when it comes to issues surrounding student life. As well as considering the academic league tables, cast your eye over the rankings for student experience. Then you can make a well-informed decision depending on your priorities.

Visit the universities

And preferably not on an Open Day. If you go then, you’ll get a name-badged student beaming about how brilliant the university is. Which is fine, but bear in mind that they’re getting paid to be there and they think that’s what they’re supposed to say.

If you want a more honest answer, arrange a visit on a different day and speak to the students you meet. Then you know that, if they say it’s amazing, it’s going to be amazing. And that’s just what university should be.

Still deciding?

Stick to a good old fashioned list of pros and cons. Here are some to get you started…

Good reasons 

It’s a really great university.

It’s in a location that I like.

The course is just right for me.

Their facilities are top of the range.

They’ve got fantastic employment statistics.

Bad reasons 

My friends are going there. You’ll make friends wherever you go. Plus you can keep up with them on Facebook.

Good luck!

For everything else you need to know about making a UCAS application, download The MyTutor Guide to UCAS 2019/20.

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