How do you make your university choices when, according to www.universitiesuk.ac.uk, there are 164 higher education institutions in the United Kingdom, and of those, 136 are universities?
This is a big decision to make, especially when you’re having to juggle school work, exam pressures and all the other ‘stuff’ that you have to deal with at seventeen.
I went to the University of St Andrews in Scotland. Like other more famous and more royal alumni, I met my future partner there. I studied theology and he studied medicine. Looking back, St Andrews was the perfect choice for me. Being from a big northern city I loved it being small, by the sea and everyone knowing each other. I didn’t know what I wanted to study and ended up applying to study English Literature because it was my favourite A’level. The benefit of the Scottish university system is that it is four years and for the first two years, you study a range of different subjects. I studied Theology alongside the English Literature, as well as Economics and Psychology. After two years I chose the Theology, and not the English Literature to specialise in as my Honours subject.
St Andrews was too far for me to return home at weekend. This helped me to be more independent, establishing strong friendships and participating fully in university life.
However, St Andrews was not the best choice for my husband. He found it too parochial, traditional and extremely remote. After three years, he left to study his clinical medicine at St Mary’s Hospital in London, where he loved the cosmopolitan student life of the big city. We are all different and what suits one person will not necessarily suit another.
10 Factors to consider when choosing your university apart from grade offers
- The Course – this sounds obvious but does the university offer the course you want to study? Courses with the same title vary considerably. For example Geography is considered a science at some universities, while at others is part of the arts and social science faculties.
- Reputation and status – is the status or being a Russell Group university a consideration for you?
- Location of the University – do you want to be in a big city or out in the countryside or even by the sea? This might also depend on what interests and hobbies you have and the opportunity the university provides to pursue these.
- Distance from home – some students want to be close enough to home so they can either live at home or visit regularly. Others want to be far enough away, making returning home at weekends an impossibility.
- Facilities at the University – again this might depend on your hobbies and interests or the course you want to study. Examples might be the sports or drama facilities or perhaps the research facilities in the department.
- Employability rates of the course – these vary tremendously and will often depend on the quality of the careers department within the university or the links that the course or university have made with employers and industry.
- Position in the University league tables – these are often a good starting point for narrowing down your choices.
- Social life – again this will vary depending on the individual. For some students, this might refer to a good music scene or night life, whereas for others it will mean opportunity for involvement with special interest groups.
- Campus or city – a campus university is often away from the town centre and appeal to some people but not to others.
- Opportunities for studying abroad – many universities have well established links with universities abroad. If this is something that is important to you, choose one that offers this option.
It should be exciting making your university choices. However, it can often feel daunting, because there are so many options to choose from. Use the factors above, as well as www.ucas.com, university websites and higher education fairs to make a long list. Then narrow it down to a short list by attending open days and talking to people who study and work at those universities. You’ll soon get a strong feeling for where you want to go.