Choosing a University – essential tips

Okay, so it’s that time of year again. AS level results have just been published and ‘UCAS apply’ for 2015 will soon go live. As a result thousands of students across the UK have started the very important (and albeit stressful) process of choosing a university. I myself have just finished the decision making – yep – after months of nail biting and ‘umming and ahhing’ I finally have my five university choices, that on completion of the rest of my application, will be sent off in the coming months (gulp!).

However, thinking back I realise that I could have made the whole deciding-where-on-earth-I’ll-be-studying fuss, a lot easier. Now, if you’re in the same position that I was (borderline clueless) or if you just want to make the whole process more efficient and logical, then read on and discover the tips that will put you at ease and make that stress simply fade away…


Firstly let’s start with the basic facts:

1) You can apply to a maximum of five universities by the deadline of 15th January 2015 (or 15th October 2014 if you are applying for medicine, dentistry, veterinary science or Oxbridge). However, most schools and colleges set an ‘internal deadline’ of around November time – just to ensure that nothing is left too rushed – such as adding your references.


2) There are over 100 universities to choose from in the UK alone. I know what you’re thinking – “how on earth am I going to narrow that down?” Well, don’t worry… read on and all will become clear.


3) IT IS YOUR CHOICE. That’s right – you choose – not your parents, not your friends, not even your teachers. Of course you can ask for their advice (in fact it’s very wise to)! But ultimately it is you who will be spending 3 or 4 years of your life at this university – so choose what will make you happy.


Okay, now that’s covered we can move on to the more tricky area – the narrowing it down phase:

The narrowing it down phase works in many ways. The first thing you need to do is type your chosen course into UCAS (making sure that you select the right year of entry – this is the year that you will be going to university and hence starting the course). Immediately this will narrow the choices down as not every single university in the UK will do your specific course. Let’s say you now have a list of around 80. Great – it’s not 100 anymore but it’s still way too many. The next narrowing down factor could be one of a number of things:


LOCATION – How far away do you want to move? If you don’t want to stay close to home then you can begin to cross off the universities that are local. Likewise, if you don’t want to move too far then you can start disregarding the ones that are hundreds of miles away. This should reduce the number of universities that you are now considering substantially.

RANK – Sometimes this matters, sometimes it doesn’t. How much people value the university’s position on a league table is down to personal preference. However, if this is important to you it can be a great way to narrow down that steadily decreasing list… For example, lets say you only want to go to a top 50 university – you should search online for the league tables (which are very easy to find) and then simply forget the universities that don’t fall into your own personal criteria.

SUBJECT RANK – Similarly to the general university rank, you may be influenced by how high your own subject is placed. Once again this is very easy to find – simply type it in on Google and the figures will pop right up.

TYPE -What type of university do you want to go to? One that is in the city? Near the coast? The town? A busy area that is full of nightlife? Or a more quiet setting? These are all necessary factors that you will need to consider in order to pick the universities that are suitable for you.

COST – How expensive is it to:

A) Live in that area

B) Travel home from that area (train ticket prices etc…)

C) Live in the accommodation – how much is the yearly rent and what does it cover – e.g does wifi? Heating? These are all essential things to find out and could very well play a part in your final decision.


And finally – The REALITY FACTOR:

Look at the universities entry requirements, can you achieve them? What are you predicted at A2? Is it similar to the entry requirements? What have you already achieved (AS level results)? Basically, be realistic. If you have achieved three C grades at AS, it’s probably not wise to apply to a university that is asking for A*s. You should apply to universities where you know you can meet their requirements. Personally, I would suggest applying to universities on or just a little above your AS level results and predictions. So say you got ABB at AS and are predicted A*AB, then apply to universities that require ABB, AAB and maybe AAA. Also remember to include universities with lower requirements – these can be useful as an insurance choice. So using the above example, this would be universities with entry requirements such as BBB or BBC.

Once the above factors have been applied your list should be well and truly narrowed down. You probably have around ten or so universities left, a tenth of what you originally started with! See – progress. Now here come the most important deciding factors for which will be your five, so take note and read on – we are close to reaching our goal.

OPEN DAYS – Attend as many as you can for the universities on your final list. Open days can be the ‘make or break’ of a university choice as they allow you to get the full picture of the place – you will be able to view accommodation, meet students and lecturers, attend various useful talks as well as touring the campus.

THE COURSE – I’ve left the most important factor until last. It’s what you are going to university for (hopefully!) – to study the subject you love in more depth. So you’ll need to find the right course for you – from institution to institution you will find great variation in a course. Remember, just because two universities offer a course with the same title it does not mean that they are identical courses! They will most likely have different modules, different structures, different teaching styles and different assessment methods. You’ll need to visit the universities’ websites, read their prospectuses and do some research to find out which course suits you the best. Once you’ve done that you’re likely to have your final five. (Yay!)


So, there it is. Tips that should make narrowing down universities and reaching your final choice a lot less complicated! Just remember – choosing a university is a very unique and personal decision; at the end of the day just choose what is best for you. So, go ahead and get picking – happy uni hunting!

Click to comment
To Top