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Choosing a University

Hopefully you’ve had a chance to read our guide on Choosing a University Course, choosing a university is a little more difficult. Firstly, you’re never going to be without choice; the 2014 ‘The Complete University Guide’ listed 125 British universities, although there are over 340 different Higher Education institutions in Britain. Secondly, there’s the location to consider, whether that’s in a city, by the sea or in the countryside. Thirdly, with university costs somewhat escalating in recent years (Scape recently featured an article on student debt); you may want to study locally, live at home, or discover new horizons and be adventurous. Once you’ve got your list of five to ten universities that most appeal to you, this is where the fun begins - I mean the proper research.

University Open Days

The next step is finding out when your shortlisted institutions are holding open days; dates and booking information are usually listed on the university’s website. Bear in mind that many universities hold two types of open days. One is a general open day, often run in association with the Students’ Union. There will be general tours of the facilities, libraries, lecture theatres and so on. The second type is that related to your course. These will be run by the relevant department, so if you’re thinking of pursuing Law, the open day would be run by the School of Law, and the same for every other course.

Open days are a great way to get a feel for the place, the campus, the people and your tutors; this will be your first taste of university life, so it’s best to make the most of it. That does mean going to taster lectures and sessions, accommodation talks and career talks, Student Union events, and of course the mandatory campus tour. But just remember one thing whilst on your open day, can you see yourself living, working and socialising here for three (or more) years? If not, it might not be the university for you. But it’s best to find these things out sooner, rather than later.

University Rankings

One thing I would advise you not to consider, as much as maybe your teachers at school, career advisers, and parents (all with the best intentions) want you to, are university rankings. These are not a great barometer of what university life is like at that institution. Rankings might help you narrow down your list of initial universities to research, but they should not be used to make informed decisions on where you want to study. Think of them as more like guidelines.

Choosing the right university and choosing the right course go hand-in-hand. Your course subject needs to be interesting enough to study it over three years. You need to enjoy the university’s atmosphere, and above all feel comfortable there. Remember you only get five choices on your UCAS form, so make each and every one count.

Is there something that you think we’ve not covered in our ‘university help’ guides? If so, leave us a comment Facebook or Twitter.

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