How to Select Universities – Tips

How to Select Universities – Tips

Six steps to choosing the right university


Open day advice: visit the town, ask questions, and bring someone for a second opinion.
Open day advice: visit the town, ask questions, and bring someone for a second opinion. Photograph: Alamy

There are hundreds of universities to choose from, but there are steps you can take to narrow your options. Reading our university guide – which combines scores for the aspects of university life that matter most to students – is a good start. But what next?

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

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. Thais Cardon, studying English literature at the 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 Holland, 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. Preferably “someone who won’t be as excited and starry-eyed as you”, Cardon adds.

4. Ask questions

“Ask staff and students for their opinions and ask what they think is good about the uni,” Holland 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.”

5. Think about location

Consider where the university is and the accommodation on offer. How expensive is the area? 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.

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