Choosing a university: a fail-proof guide
(Last updated: 12 May 2021)
Choosing a university is a very important, albeit tedious and daunting step. The three to six years you’ll spend attending what may seem like extremely boring lecturers – believe it or not – will play a huge role in shaping your career prospects, amongst other things. Getting an amazing education doesn’t have to be a chore however – as long as you choose wisely.
What does choosing wisely even mean?
For starters it’s important that you choose the right university. After all, university’s a somewhat long-term commitment that’ll probably cost you a significant amount of money. It is important to ensure that you not only enjoy the experience, but also that you enrol in a course that best suits your goals and needs.
To make the process a lot less daunting, read on for a fail-proof guide to choosing a university.
Familiarise yourself with university rankings
Yes, Oxford and Cambridge are the best universities, but what are your other options? What about the University of East Anglia, which has a brilliant department for Development Studies? Or the University of Sussex and its world-class chemistry department?
Choose a university that’s right for you and the course you want to pursue. The truth is, Oxford and Cambridge aren't for everyone and their very high entry requirements mean that not everyone can get in anyway. You’ll probably realise that there are equally prestigious universities out there, though this prestige is usually very course-specific.
That's exactly why familiarising yourself with university rankings is extremely important – you’ll be able to gain better insight on the best universities for your preferred course. Rankings such as the Times Higher Education and QS world rankings even provide information on teaching standards and student life, and are a great place to start.
Choose a course you’ll enjoy
You’ll realise that there are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a university. Factors like location, reputation, shopping amenities and the clubbing scene will often top or at least feature in your list.
Believe it or not, it’s very easy to choose the wrong course when you are faced with other, seemingly-important deal-breakers. Choosing the wrong course is a very expensive mistake that you’ll want to avoid. Spending 3-6 years studying a course that you honestly can’t be bothered about is not only tedious – it’s a waste of both the institution’s and your time.
How can you choose the right course? A great starting point will be to keep your career objective in mind. What subjects will you require if you want to enter the legal profession for instance? Yes, granted, not everyone has their career goals neatly laid out – in that case, you may want to think about your interests. Are there any subjects that align with what sparks your curiosity? If so, great – but don’t end there. Make sure to research the course to ensure that it’s a good fit. You may also want to compare similar courses across a small sample of universities that you’re considering.
Location, location, location
Location is a very important part of the university experience. Some people prefer urban settings, others are more inclined to rural settings and others prefer a suburban feel. That’s all well and good and its something you want to keep in mind when considering a university.
If you are used to big cities, are you looking for a new experience or do you prefer to go with what you’re familiar with? Be true to yourself and ensure that you choose an environment that will at the very least, leave you comfortable enough to enjoy your university experience. Remember, your study environment plays a huge role in how successful you’ll be at university!
Also, don’t forget to consider the distance from home if you’re family oriented and would like to visit home more often than most students. Many students prefer to go as far away as possible – in that case, be sure to consider the university that will allow you to get out and experience new things!
Don’t forget the cost
This is almost always the most dreaded aspect of making the decision to attend university, but it doesn’t have to be. Taking tuition and livings fees into account in advance of your application will give you ample time to either save or put in scholarship or loan applications.
Tuition fees are very expensive and if you keep this in mind, you’ll realise that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with not being able to afford it. This shouldn’t be a problem as long as you prepare, prepare, prepare. Are you aiming to apply for a scholarship? If so, what are the requirements? Are your grades good enough? Give yourself enough time to improve your grades if you have to. Check out the supporting documents that you’ll need to attach to your application. Have you begun drafting your personal statement? Ensure that you have enough time to perfect it. Give yourself the best chance possible.
If you aren’t interested in any of these options, there are always opportunities for part-time jobs targeted at students. Check out any job vacancies in your area and apply if you’re eligible. Take a look also at any employment opportunities offered by your university of choice. Many employ their own students for help with catering/functions/events and – with a plethora of students on hand to help, and not wanting to bog any student down with job-related stress – are very flexible in the hours they offer and their employment terms.
You might also want to consider a part-time degree if this option appeals to you but do remember that it takes longer to graduate. On the flip side, you’ll be able to study and make money at the same time so it’s a good idea to weigh your options.
"Put the effort in choosing the right
place of study beforehand, and you'll reap
the benefits for many years to come."
The process for choosing a university can be hard and exhausting, but rest assured that it is worth all the effort. Having a degree in a subject you enjoy will do great things for your career prospects!
Going to university is an exciting experience that opens you up to a completely new adventure. With this guide, your search for a university should be much easier.