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7 things to think about when choosing a university
University can be one of the most exciting and rewarding times in your life. But before you get there, there is the challenge of choosing the right university.
I went through the application process a few years ago and understand how tough and stressful it can be. So here are some tips to help the aspiring university student make the right decision
- Take your time: Choosing the right university is important. Remember you will be studying there for, most likely, three years. Don’t leave the process to the last minute. Deciding where you want to study can be tough, so give yourself the luxury of time to think it over. It may be worth thinking about this as early as Year 9 or 10. Click here to read a blog about achieving your goals by starting with the end in mind.
- Look at league tables: League tables can be a good indicator as to the overall rating and reputation of a university as well as the quality of any given course. There are a number of respected league tables published every year, such as The Complete University Guide, the Guardian University Guide and The Times Good University Guide. Also, note that different universities excel at different subjects, so make sure you research the reputation of your potential universities in regards to your chosen subject.
- Do your research! University websites contain a lot of detail about the institution, its history and values. You can also read the university’s prospectus online or order one to arrive by post. Some universities will require you to apply earlier than the usual deadline, other universities operate a collegiate system and expect you to choose a college when applying. Some universities expect you to take an additional entrance exam before being accepted on the course. Remember that the more you know about your potential university, the more prepared you will be with your application.
- Attend open days. Make sure you attend a handful of open days, so that you have some comparisons. Going to visit a university is the only way you will get a true feel for what life will be like there. The day I stepped onto the campus at the University of Kent, was the day I knew where I wanted to study and spend the next three years of my life. At an open day you get a chance to meet and talk to staff and students and also tour the university campus. Statistics and league tables tell us something, but the first-hand experience of a visit will help paint a more detailed picture of what a university has to offer.
- Lifestyle & location: Don’t forget to think about location when choosing a university. Ask yourself what kind of lifestyle you want outside of your studies? Some may favour living in a big city with a vibrant and varied nightlife. Others may prefer a low key, relaxed environment. You may also want to consider how far away from home you are prepared to live. Some students choose to live at home with their family during their time at university, others want to live within a short distance from home and others are quite happy to move much further away.
- Societies, Sports & Extracurricular activities: There are usually hundreds of societies in each university and some universities have world-renowned facilities to support these activities eg. Sports at Loughborough University. You won’t be spending all your time studying so if there’s an activity that you enjoy and want to continue at university, it may be worth looking into the university that will support you with this. If you don’t have an extra-curricular that you are particularly interested in, it may be worth looking at the university list of societies to have a think about the kinds of activities that you would want to take part in, in your free time.
- What else is on offer: Some universities have really good exchange programmes where you can study abroad as part of your course. Some universities have an excellent careers fair and a career centre to support you with getting internships and finding a graduate job. Some universities have really good bursaries which could reduce the cost of your course. Others allow you to take credits as part of your degree so you can study Biology and take some credits in Music (if that’s the sort of thing you’re looking for!). Wherever you choose to study, make sure that you look into any other added benefits as this will really help with your decision making.
We hope this is helpful to anyone that’s thinking about going to university in the next couple of years. For more hints and tips on universities and careers, visit the GT Scholars blog www.gtscholars.org/blog