There are over 150 universities and colleges in the UK and choosing the right one for you can be tricky. After all, your choice will signal the success of not just your grades but also the next few years of your life, so it’s important to make your selection carefully.
Here we help explain some key factors for you to take into account when choosing where you’d like to study. You may not be able to tick every box, but the more the better.
Choosing a university course
Of course, your chosen field of study will have a huge influence over where you can go for your university years, and for some, the options will be narrow. However, if you’re looking to study something within a broader field, you may be able to consider specialist colleges and facilities alongside standard universities.
It’s worth checking league tables, particularly if you’re looking to study an academic subject, to assess the performance of the universities on offer. League tables and grades aren’t everything, but realistically there’s no point attending at all if you’re going to fail: and some courses may require more effort than others to get through successfully.
It’s important to choose a course that you either enjoy or have a real interest in. Studying something because you feel you should or that it would make a good career may mean that you struggle to hold the enthusiasm needed to dedicate yourself to the course as you need to.
Some universities and colleges offer you additional modules that you won’t find elsewhere, which could give you great experience and an enhanced qualification.
If you can, it is also worth researching into work placements. Your course may require such placements and the more exciting, the better!
Universities who invest time and effort into their local communities and local companies display not just great local social responsibility but also are more likely to be able to find you some useful work experience and internships along the way. This increases your chances of finding a great job when you do eventually leave… and makes things all a bit more interesting!
Choosing a university location
Your university won’t be the only place that you spend time and so if you’re moving, it’s important that you like the local area as well as your educational facilities!
You may not be able to actually visit the cities and towns in question to scope them out, but do a little research before you make a final choice. There’s lots of groups for universities and student unions on Facebook and other social media channels that you can check out, as well as reading up online to try and ascertain the ‘vibe’ of the place you’re going to.
Don’t be disheartened if the place doesn’t yet seem all that exciting: it could just mean that it’s not been gentrified yet, and that’s not a bad thing!
Research into the town or city’s retention rates for students – and if they’re low, try and work out why. Derby and the University of East Anglia both have extremely high retention rates, so you may even find a location for life.
Perhaps more importantly, does the place suit you? If you’re a bit of a country bumpkin, a London university may be too busy and overwhelming, and if you’re a city dweller, a countryside location may be too quiet. Make sure that wherever you choose, it works for your personality as well as your studies.
The Transport Links
You may not be planning on going home every weekend, but it is good to be able to get around easily if you need to. Checking out the transport links to the surrounding area and to other cities is worth doing so that you can plan in travels and trips as well as any journeys home.
Transport doesn’t just facilitate you getting out, but others getting in too. Choose a balance that means your grandma won’t show up unexpected every Tuesday, but enough to have others visit once in a while!
University Societies, Clubs and Facilities
If you have any extra-curricular hobbies, or would like any, the student union may be able to facilitate you continuing or developing this through societies or clubs. Most student unions have their own websites or online groups to give information and if there isn’t a society already that suits you, you can normally apply for funding to start one.
The facilities that the university can offer outside of the classrooms and lecture theatres can be as important as those within. Many universities have bars, restaurants, sports facilities, gyms and even doctors’ surgeries on site.
All of these things will help make up the quality of life which you’ll live while you’re there, so whilst they may seem minor, will add up. After all, you don’t want to have to travel off-campus and elsewhere every time you want to eat/shop/see a doctor/work out!
Your support network at uni
Whilst you shouldn’t ever pick a higher education place based on where your friends are going, it doesn’t hurt to be aware of how far away they are if they too are travelling off. You’ll make new friends and an extended support network over your first weeks and months at uni, but the early days can be lonely; and you’ll never want to lose touch with your old mates completely!
Even if you are heading to the opposite end of the country as your friendship circle, making plans to ‘meet in the middle’ for a weekend or have them come to visit once in a while can help keep your long distance relationships nurtured even during long absences.
Plus with great hotel discounts such as Travelodge – https://studentdiscountsquirrel.co.uk/travelodge/ – you can do all your travelling on a budget and in style!
When in doubt, or if you have a difficult decision to make, create a spreadsheet. A good old-fashioned pros and cons list backed by first-hand and secondary research will help you make an educated and well-informed decision, although of course, there’s a lot to be said for going with your gut.
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