How to pick university is potentially one of the most important decisions you will have to make in your life so far. It is a big decision, and you need to be getting it right.
When you're picking a university, there are a large number of things to consider...
· How far you are away from home
· University course combination
· Social life
· Most importantly where you'll be happy
One of the first things that need to be taken into account is the type of location.
When we throw around the terms city and campus university, it's talking about the two different types of location. You can have a campus university in or very close to a city, there are not always in the middle of nowhere. Campus universities mean that they have everything in one place, your first-year halls, lecture theatres, clubs, bars, cafes, shops, doctors and the students' union are all going to be in one centralized location. It's going to include things perhaps you didn't even think of, mental health provisions, childcare provisions, a library and that means, especially in your first year when you're probably going to live on campus, you don't have to travel that far and you'll never have to leave campus if you don't want to. For example, in the first year, you can roll out of bed at 07:50 and make your 08:00 lecture. Because campuses are so centralized it's generally only going to be students and staff on campus and there is the perception that they're going to be a little bit safer. You don't have to go very far to get back from the clubs or pubs because it's a five-minute walk in an area that is very busy and full of other students and you don't have to jump in a taxi; you don't have to walk through a city late at night by yourself or get public transport. The other advantage is that wherever you go, you're going to bump into somebody that you know. If you walk into the library, there's going to be a table of people there working that you know so you can sit down with them. If you have a spare five minutes and you want to go and grab a cup of coffee, that can quickly turn into an hour sitting down and chatting with people that you know.
The disadvantages of campus university are that you don't get to see a lot of the city that you have moved to, you won't get to experience the culture; you won't get to experience meeting other people and you can spend weeks of your life not leaving an area the size of a few square miles. While some people may like this, some people may not like this.
City universities are a different format, they are spread out within a city and your halls may be a bus ride from your lecture theater whilst your lecture theater may be a bus ride or a long walk from the bars or the student union. With a city you will walk past many, many university buildings, whether it's lecture theaters, student health provision, general offices, and you won't even know that they're part of the university. There are significant, large chunks of major cities that are wholly owned by universities, and people wandering around will never even know. In between all of these university buildings, there are going to be non-university buildings such as shops, cafes and bars where anybody can go to because it's just a regular shop and there are going to be people all over the place. If you're walking from one lecture theatre to another lecture theatre, you're just going to be walking down an ordinary street, you won't be able to turn to the person next to you and chat with them because chances are they're not a student. The advantages to a city university are that you experience what is going on in that city, you are going to come across things that you weren't expecting. If you isolate yourself in a campus university, you're not going to happen across stuff unexpectedly, whereas if you wander around a city, aimlessly perhaps, going from one place to another; you're going to come across things, new experiences, new people, that you never expected. Some of these are going to be good, some of these are going to be not so good. The disadvantage of a city university is that you have a lot further to travel, which can make it more expensive, the halls can be quite a long way from the lecture theaters. The decision, in the end, is entirely up to you, and what type of university you think you'll fit in best with, what kind of university you feel suits your personality best, where you're going to be happiest spending the next three, four, five, six years of your life.
Your social life may seem like a trivial thing, but you're going to be living at this university for three, four, maybe even five years, so you do need to consider your social life. It's not going to be the most significant consideration, but it is substantial. If you love going clubbing, going to bars, going out every night, maybe a quiet country university that doesn't have access to all those things, is not the best place for you. You need to pick a university that is going to fit in with your life, fit in with your lifestyle.
The course choice is going to be the most important thing; you need to be looking at the breakdown of the units in the course. What units do you cover in your first year, Is the first year curriculum broad? Can you change course if you change your mind? If you are keen on one topic, pick a university that teaches it, don't pick a university that has a good reputation if they don't teach the bit that you're interested in.
We need to talk about the weather, my husband went to the University of Manchester, where it rains like every single time we go for a visit, it rains a lot, and I don't like rain. It messes up my hair; my hair goes all frizzy. I didn't want to go to a place where it rains all the time so I went to Bath where it doesn't rain a lot. I know its frivolous and I apologize for that, but I would not be happy in Manchester because it was too rainy. My husband wouldn't have been happy in Bath because he loved Manchester. It is such a personal thing for your university decision.
Another thing you need to consider is, how far away is it from home? Now when I was picking universities, I applied to Imperial, Kings, Bristol Bath and Southampton. So three London universities I applied for and then I was talking to my parents about where I would live, and it kind went like, "Well, of course, you will live at home," and I was kind of like, "Oh, no, no I won't. "Not going to go home when I am at university." So I immediately crossed off three that I had applied for. So I was left with a choice of three. If you want to live at home pick a university that is really close, If you don't want to live at home don't pick a university that is really close. Now there are going to be lots of different things you need to take into account when you decide whether you want to live at home for university or not. You may have responsibilities at home, you may have parents or children that you need to care for, which means you need to stay at home or you may have a great bedroom which you just don't want to leave. Also another consideration is would your parents let you come and go at whatever time you please? Is living at home going to be something that you need to do? Is it something that you want to do, would it be something that would hamper your social life and thus hamper your university experience. I didn't want to move too far away from my parents, just in case, everything went wrong. So I kind of like got the tube, train and bus times. I just thought I didn't want to be more than about three hours away from home. This made me discount the whole of the North of England and just stayed in the south of England, which was great because I went to Bath which in my opinion is the best university in the whole world ever. So where your accommodation is and what transport is going to be like, is also going to be important, and this also plays to a city university. If your accommodation is in one place, all the pubs and clubs are in another place, but transport stops at 11 o'clock at night. That means you either have to walk home, or you don't go out, or you find somewhere to stay. So these are lots, lots and lots of things you need to think about. When you think about accommodation, you want to think about the price of accreditation. It is a lot cheaper to stay at home? Maybe if your parents are paying for university, perhaps they won't pay for accommodation, so you have to stay at home, but obviously, the London accommodation is going to be expensive, and the other problem with London accommodation is that the university were always looking at housing that was further out of London than where my parents lived. I know lots of London universities where their accommodation is not actually in London, it's way out in the suburbs. So you're going to have about an hour, an hour and a half commute into university every day, which is a little bit of a drag.
Choosing where I would be spending the next few years of my life was in the top of my to-do list. I was pretty certain of the type of course I wanted to study at university. This was my starting point. I made a list of all the universities that had the courses of my choice and to narrow this list down I had certain specifications I needed for the university to possess.
One of these was distance. I knew even though it was the cheapest solution, I definitely did not want to be living at home. I would be turning 18 shortly before the start of university, this meant I would officially be an adult and I wanted to be free to make my own choices as an adult. Staying at home would mean having to continue doing the chores my parents had set for me and living by a curfew. It did not sound student like and at all appealing to me.
Having said that I also knew I wanted to be fairly close by my parents, just in case of home sickness or emergencies. I wanted to be able to reach them by one train journey at a maximum of two hours and this shortened my list of potential universities.
I then looked at the type of university I wanted to attend. There are two types - campus and collegiate universities. With a campus everything from student accommodation to study halls are located very close to each other and you could reach everything within 10-15mins. A collegiate university tends to be a lot more widespread. For example, your accommodation could be up to an hour away from the main university site. For me a campus site was far more appealing, it would mean I wouldn't have to spend further money on travel to attend my lectures. Being a big lover of libraries I could work all night in the university library and reach home within minutes.
Another aspect I looked at was the surroundings of the university. I’m an introvert by nature and I love quiet surroundings so I narrowed my choices to cities that weren't as popular amongst the masses. This also meant the nightlife wasn't as exciting in my university choices as it was elsewhere and that was fine as bars and clubs are definitely not my scene of choice. I would much rather hang out with my friends at a tea room. Living costs and accommodation prices also played a big part in my shortlist as I didn't want to be paying out of my ears for everyday living.
Once I had a definite shortlist I booked open days and out of the whole process in choosing a university this was the deciding factor. I’m a big believer in following your gut instincts. Once I visited a university my instincts would immediately kick in and tell me whether or not this university would make me happy. I chose a university that definitely makes me happy and I couldn't be more proud of myself
I am a firm believer that the most important factor in deciding where you're going to go to university is where you're going to be happiest. Which is why open days are a fantastic opportunity for you to go to experience university life, and decide where you are going to be happy. When I was younger, I had a dream university. Click here to read more...
In the middle of 2017 a new league table, a new ranking system, started to be used, the Teaching and Excellence Framework, TEF. They gave gold, silver, or bronze rankings to the universities that decided to take part, nearly 300 different universities. The stated aim of this new ranking system was to allow students to make a more informed choice.Click here to read more...
There are a few different ways of determining which are the good universities, which ones you should aim for, which ones are worth applying for, but what are Russell Group Universities, and is it worth aiming for one?
The Russell Group is a collection of 24 universities in the UK, and these are good universities.Click here to read more...
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