So, you know which course area you want to study. Whether you want to study Philosophy or Chemistry, there’s lots of universities to choose from. But how do you find the ideal one for you? It’s important to carry out research, but you need to make sure you’re making decisions based on the right information. Read on to find out the top things that you’ll want to consider when choosing your university.
One of the key decisions you’ll make when you think about what university you want to go to is the location in which you want to study. You’ll need to think about the following things:
Think about whether you’d prefer to study close to home or on the other side of the country. Bear in mind that while getting as far away from your parents as possible might sound attractive, it’s likely to be expensive to travel back home for the holidays.
In general, it’s cheaper to study closer to home. However, if you live in London, for example, it may be cheaper to study somewhere with a lower cost of living.
While your maintenance loan may sound like a lot of money now, it’s worth investigating how expensive it is to live at the universities you’re thinking of applying to.
City or campus university
Universities are often described as being either “city” or “campus”. In general, this refers to both the location of the university and a more general “feel” of the campus.
City universities are typically in large cities, where the university campus itself is often split up into a number of separate buildings in the city. City universities often feel more social, but it can lead to students feeling split up, especially if your accommodation is on one side of the city and your friends’ on the other.
Campus universities usually have one large campus which contains all or most of the university buildings, including accommodation. They are typically a little further out of the city or town that the university is in. Many students like the fact that they live and study in one place, but some may feel that the environment is too insular.
While these two kinds of universities do feel different, there are still lots of similarities. It’s important to consider each university that you visit separately, and try and get a sense of the feel of each one.
There are a number of different metrics that you can use to differentiate between universities. It’s important not to discount a good university because of one lower score. But, you can use these metrics to get a general sense of a university’s strengths and weaknesses.
There are lots of league tables, all with slightly different ways of ranking universities. For example, the Guardian and Times Higher Education tables. These league tables are good to give you a general sense of a university’s ranking, and often break down into other useful metrics as well.
Student satisfaction scores
The National Student Survey (NSS) is often used to create a student satisfaction ranking. The NSS is sent to every graduate in the country, and so can provide a good picture of how happy students are at universities.
Another key metric that you can use to compare universities are the employability or graduate prospects figures. For example, the Office for Students publishes the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey, which measures how many graduates are in work six months after graduation.
A crucial metric for your choice of institution will be their entry grades. It’s advisable to choose universities with a range of entry grades so that you’ve got an ambitious option, a safe option, and a fallback option. Also, if you find that there’s very little separating two different universities, you could make your decision based on their entry grades.
Get a feel for the universities
To differentiate between universities, you’ll need to have something to go on. While it’s very difficult to understand what it’s like to study somewhere until you’re actually there, there are a few ways that you can get a feel for a university so that you know what to expect.
Open days are an essential part of picking the right university. You should try and go to open days for all of the universities that you’re seriously considering.
While you’re there, try and think about what it would be like to study at that university. Bear in mind, open days showcase the university at its best, and they’re carefully managed. If you get a chance, try and wander around the campus as well as taking the guided tours.
Modules and course focus
University websites are packed full of information about what it’s like to study there. They’ll have details on the courses and accommodation that are on offer.
As with open days, uni websites are designed to show off their best aspects. Try and use the website to get a feel for the university’s ethos and the style of the course.
Modules and course focus
While it might be tempting to think that every English Literature course will be the same, this isn’t true. Many courses are fairly similar, although there is still a lot of variation between different universities.
To begin with, compare the module lists for the courses at the universities that you’re researching. Pay close attention to the compulsory modules, as you’ll be required to take these, but also look at the optional modules either in first year or in later years, if they’re available.
Remember that while you may have a good sense of what kinds of things you’ve enjoyed studying at A-level, you may find that your tastes develop during your degree.
While it might be tempting to think that every English Literature course will be the same, this isn’t true.
Alongside the module lists, you’ll also want to compare the general focus of the courses. For example, an English Literature course at one university may place an emphasis on post-colonial literature, while the same course at a different university might focus more on classical literature.
While the focus of a course might not be obvious at first glance, you can look at things like the research specialisms of the faculty and individual lecturers who lead modules to begin to figure this out.
By researching and thinking about all of these elements, you’ll be able to come closer to a decision on which university you should go to.
To simplify your research, try Centigrade. It displays metrics like student satisfaction and league tables, as well as offering recommendations for course areas based on your interests. Also, you can use it to track your ratings of universities on a huge range of different aspects like accommodation or location.