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Before University

Choosing Your University - How to Choose

Introduction

Once you have made the decision that you would like to undertake a course, you need to make two key decisions, which are:
  • Choosing the course that you would like to study and
  • The that you would like to attend
These decisions should not be taken lightly as they will affect your future.

Deciding on a Course

Due to the large number of courses available to students there are a number of issues that need to be reviewed when deciding which course to study. These are discussed below.

Course Content

When looking at University to decide on which course you would like to study, you need to be careful that the actual specific detail of the course is considered. You need to read beyond the course title and course summary as the module options and content can vary significantly. It is important to be aware that although many universities offer courses with similar names, the specific content can vary. The course may focus more on one area rather than another.

This is particularly important as many University courses include modules which can be selected by you depending upon what you want to learn.

Teaching Style

The teaching style for the course is also important, as you may find that one course consists more of module assignments and group work rather than examinations. By considering this factor you can be sure that the course that you finally decide on is the best for you. Particularly if you are aware from previous experience that you prefer or perform better with specific teaching styles.

For example you need to consider things such as:

  • How much of the course is exam based?
  • How much is based on essays as compared to course work?
  • How does the marking system work?

Considering these factors will help ensure that the course that you have chosen is right for you, both in terms of content and also teaching styles.

Work Experience Placements

Many courses provide the option of . These can vary in the following way:
  • A one full year placement normally between the third and fourth or between the second and third year
  • Two six month placements one in the second year and one in the third year.

If you have limited , or even if you have never worked in the field that you are considering undertaking a career in, work experience placements are invaluable. They will provide important experience that will be of benefit when looking for a job after graduation. Work Placements can also provide a break from studying so that your are refreshed and ready to complete the final semester(s) of your course when you come back.

If you are interested in working abroad, a placement with a large company may provide an opportunity to work in different countries, if you return after graduation.

Module Flexibility

Many courses now offer a variety of options to students in their second and final years of study. This allows the individual to make decisions as to the subject areas that they study. You may want to choose modules providing a wide-breadth of study or ones which give in-depth analysis of key areas.

Course Flexibility

Having considered all details on the course content, it is worthwhile considering the flexibility that you will have in changing your course if you have a change of heart once you have started the course. Many universities allow individuals to change their minds about the course that they are undertaking as long as this is within the first month of the course starting.

This will be important to you, if you are undecided on what career path you would like to follow.

To Summarise

Being aware of these factors when deciding on a course will make it easier for you to make your final choice. It will also help to reduce the possibility of choosing a course that may not be right for you.

If you have already chosen the career that you would like to pursue, making a decision on the course will be significantly easier.

However, if you are unsure which path you would like to follow in the long-term, you need to be sure that the course you select will leave multiple options available. In this instance, it is also better to choose a subject that you are good at or enjoy. If you do not like the subject, it is unlikely that you will be able to commit yourself for the time required.

When making a decision on course it is also important to remember that most professions, including Law, IT, Business and Media do not require a subject specific .

Deciding on a University

As with making a decision on the course, there are a number of factors that need to be considered before choosing the that you wish to attend.

Supporting Materials / Facilities

When considering which University, it is important that you consider things such as:
  • Are you prepared to study away from home and also how far are you prepared to travel to University
  • Two six month placements one in the second year and one in the third year.
  • Is the course you wish to pursue widely available or does it cover a niche area
  • Are there specific facilities that you require, such as gym, car parking etc., technical resources
  • What are your expected grades for your , etc.
  • How large or small is the University and how many students study there
  • Is the University located in a large city or in a rural area

These are some of the aspects that need to be thought about. Each individual student will have different requirements of their potential University and so it is important to spend some time on the decision.

University League Tables

Before deciding on a , also consider the University rating in the Guardian Newspaper League Tables. These are useful making choices between universities because they explain how well that University is doing in comparison to others. However, please note that these do not give information at course and department level. It is also important to remember that attending a University at the top of the league table does not imply that higher grades will be achieved. This will be the responsibility of the student studying at the University. A high placing does mean that generally facilities and grades are above the average compared to other Universities. This can also be important in terms of your career as some blue-chip companies have a preference of students from some specific Universities.

Careers Service Centre

Many universities offer , and although you may not consider this important at the moment, they can be invaluable when you are looking for a work placement or once you have graduated.

Social Life

Social aspects of University life are very important and elements such as location, facilities and services play a significant role in your time there. The range of social, sports and cultural activities provided by the University need to match you requirements especially if you are living away from home. Although you are at University to study, the most effective students know how to balance their social life well, to ensure that they enjoy their time as well.

The cost of living (i.e. rent, food, drink and socialising) can be greater in London and other large cities and this may impact your available budget significantly.

Friends

Although this factor may vary in importance to you, there are many people that let their friend's choice of University impact their decision. This can be of benefit as it helps provide companionship and security, especially in the first few months of starting. However, you may find that in some instances this may make you reluctant to make new friends. This is certainly a missed opportunity to get to know new people, especially as you will be studying with them for up to three years. You may also find that friends studying a different course and possibly the same one have widely varying timetables which can affect how much time you have available to spend together.

To Summarise

Having considered the above factors, unless you have already decided that you would like to go to a specific , there are a variety of others that you can choose to attend across the UK.

There is no single definitive characteristic that you can use to identify if a university is right for you. This is because everyone looks for something different from University and every University offers something unique.

Having decided the course that you would like to undertake will make it easier to narrow down the potential Universities that will need to apply to. Please note that certain courses may be offered by only some Universities.

If however, you have not decided on a course, you need to consider factors such as social environment, status of university, quality of lecturers, location, facilities, etc to reduce the list to some specific locations, from which you can select the right one for you.

Many Universities offer which enables you to visit them for the day and get a tour from one of the students who may be able to provide you with more detailed information about the University site. You can also call Universities to obtain a , which is like a brochure describing the facilities and courses available at the University.

Additional Information

Additional information and support can be provided by the Student Services Staff in universities and . They will also assist with any further questions you may have.

Note: If you think that you have made the wrong decision before you have started the course or once you are a few weeks into the course, you will find that most Universities will be flexible and will allow you to change your mind and start another course. In these instances it is worth speaking to either your Course Tutor or your Student Careers Centre.