When I first started looking at universities the options seemed overwhelming. There are hundreds of universities in the UK offering thousands of courses. It was ultimately my choice where the future would take me. I knew I wanted to be as well informed about my options as I could manage, to make a well researched decision.
It’s a daunting process, but one that every student has to go through to find their perfect fit. If you’ve just started thinking about applying to university, here’s a little bit more about my experience, with some tips and things to think about, that might help you along the way…
- Narrow down your options
I started researching universities and courses I was interested in online, and after hours looking aimlessly at various websites I quickly realised I’d have to concentrate my search criteria if I wanted to get anywhere.
Location seemed a good place to start, so my first big step was deciding that I’d like to study in the South of England. Whilst I wanted to go and start my own life, I didn’t want to be impossibly far away from my home, and the thought of studying hours away – meaning long painful train journeys when I would go home for holidays – just didn’t appeal to me like it did some of my friends.
I heard lots of my mates say ‘I’m getting as far away as possible!’, but I always joked that the right balance for me would be ‘…close enough that my mum can visit, but far away enough she can’t pop in unexpectedly for a cup of tea!’.
With a geographical area in mind, I picked out the universities that I liked the look of and were ranked respectably. I chose universities with a variety of entry requirements for every eventuality, and very quickly I was left with a list of about 10 universities. Next stop: looking up open days!
- If you can visit, it’s worth the trip
I wasn’t really sure what to expect during the first open day I attended. I liked the look of the university online, and was nervous but excited to go and explore. After a whirlwind of a day registering, attending as many talks as I could fit in and exploring the facilities (the process got easier after a few more open days), I firmly concluded that the university wasn’t for me.
After hours and hours of researching, the day was a quick lesson in the importance of visiting a university to see if you can imagine living there for three or more years. I simply couldn’t imagine going to a university where there were sheep on campus! The university was lovely, but I just couldn’t imagine myself living, socialising, pulling all-nighter’s there.
With a refreshed insight into the kind of campus that would suit me, I went back to my list and chopped and changed my options, giving myself a range of entry requirements to look at, and booked onto some more open days.
- Get as much information as possible
A few open day experiences stand out for me, including attending a few talks on different courses just out of interest. I’ve always been interested in the humanities, so I also went to talks on History and Film Studies degree options, just to see what the courses were like.
Whilst I was quite confident my main interests lied in literature, I’m really glad I went to these talks as they expanded my horizons and helped me feel confident in ultimately choosing English Literature. Even within my course it was worth digging deeper, as every university teaches each subject in a different way. Looking at the modules the courses offered helped me decide if I’d enjoy the course or not.
Surrey was the third open day I attended, and by this time I was starting to get a better picture of what I wanted out of university life. I was really excited to visit the campus to see if it was as good in real life as it looked in the prospectus. Luckily for me, it felt right as soon as I stepped on campus and all of my questions were answered. It took patience and lots of research to find the right fit, but I was very happy when I did.
Everyone’s experience of choosing a university is different. One of the main things that I learnt from my experience is to find somewhere excites you. Each university and course has a different feel and environment to it, so visiting university open days is really invaluable to find out if the course and environment suits you.
I know choosing a university can be a really stressful experience, but it’s also a really exciting time where there are so many possibilities open to you. Don’t worry if you don’t know what you want to study, where you want to be, or even if you even want to go to university. Lots of students feel that way, and it takes a little time and hunting to discover the best option for you. The best thing to do is take the time to start now and do your research – it’s up to you where the process takes you.