There are a few basic things that you need to be keeping in mind when looking at different universities:
- Do they do the course I am interested in?
- How good are they at delivering the course I want?
- What are the entry requirements?
- What is Student Life like at this university?
Do they do the course I’m interested in?
One of the best ways to start when picking a university is to know what courses or subject areas you are interested in. Different universities have different strengths and weaknesses – and some might not even offer the course you are interested in – so it is really useful to narrow down the search.
Once you have an idea of what area you want to study, then you can start doing some research! All universities have websites which list their courses, and these can be a great place to start finding out what these institutions offer. But it isn’t going to be easy to go through EVERY website for EVERY university in the UK, so start by getting a feel for what is on offer at local universities, or looking at universities in places that you might want to move to.
How good are they at delivering the course I want?
The university websites are great for finding out what courses are on offer, but if you want to easily work out which universities are better at delivering certain courses, then check out Unistats.
Unistats is a government run website which can give you lots of unbiased information about all the courses in the country, and it can help you to work out which university would be best for you. It is based on the National Student Survey, so all the information is from people who have just finished the courses and are in the best position to give their honest opinions.
What are the entry requirements?
Once you are starting to get together a list of universities that deliver courses you want to study, you need to start looking at the entry requirements. Universities accept a range of different qualifications: some will accept only A-levels, some will accept UCAS points, others will accept BTECs, or other vocational courses. You need to keep in mind that for some degrees the university will need a student to have A-levels or GCSEs in specific subjects. There are a lot of combinations, so take the time to look on the university websites or on Unistats, and try to work out which entry requirements you think you will be able to meet. If you are ever unsure, or it doesn’t seem very clear, you can always email or ring a university and ask to speak to Admissions – they will be able to answer your questions about entry requirements to specific courses.
What is Student Life like at this university?
So, you have put together a shortlist of universities that offer a course you are interested in – now you have to decide which university is going to be the best for you as a student.
Whether you are living at home and travelling to university, or moving away, there are a lot of things you can consider which will help you to decide where you would like to apply.
Going along to Open Days is a fantastic way to get a feel for the university, and for the city or town that it is in – the more universities you visit, the easier it will be to make your decision! It also gives you the opportunity to meet the staff at the university and make sure the course definitely sounds right for you. You can find all the open days on www.opendays.com.
The Student Room is a website that allows students to chat to one another and share experiences, and each university has its own section, so this can be a great place to ask questions and read about other peoples’ experiences at the universities you are interested in.
All universities have Student Support services, but you can read about the specifics on their websites. You can also look up their Students’ Unions and see what clubs and sports they offer. Don’t let it put you off if a university doesn’t have an activity or society that you are interested in – you can always be the one to start a new club when you get there!