There are hundreds of universities to choose from, but there are steps you can take to narrow your options.
1. Research online
The vast majority of UK courses are on Ucas, where you can filter them by location and course. Once you’ve narrowed it down, see what detailed information is available on university websites. Check out their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or Snapchat pages. They may run web chats with academics or students where you can ask questions.
2. Consider the course structure and content
Find out how you will be taught and assessed, like whether a course has a lot of exams, essays, or group work, and also consider the course content. Is it a sandwich course: with possibility to have a placement or exchange with another country? Emma Jones, studying English literature at the University of Exeter’s Penryn campus, says she regrets not looking into her reading lists before she got to university. “I got lucky because in the third year I get to study Harry Potter,” she says. “But definitely look at the course material.”
3. Go to open days
It’s always worth visiting the university. “We strongly advise that any final decision you make is based on how you feel on the open day,” says Tom Baker, pastoral lead at Blackpool Sixth Form College. He suggests students go at least twice (if you can afford the travel costs) and spend as much time there as possible. There will be lots going on, so plan in advance, so you don’t miss anything. When you’re there, talk to as many people as possible, visit the town or city as well as the university. If you can, bring someone along for a second opinion.
4. Ask questions
“Ask staff and students for their opinions and ask what they think is good about the uni,” Tom says. “Ask about life beyond the university, like where the course will take you – and ask for evidence. For example, you could ask what previous students have typically gone on to do. How quickly they have found a job…
5. Think about location
Consider where the university is and the accommodation on offer. How expensive is the area? How would you get there? And would you prefer a busy city or a quieter rural campus?
6. Look beyond lectures
You’ll likely be living at university for at least three years, so find out what’s on offer outside the curriculum. One university may have an active film society, and another might have a lively cocktail club, or winning football team. “If a university doesn’t offer a society you want, you can always start one, so it shouldn’t be a defining thing,” Baillie says.