the Complete guide to choosing your university

Choosing a university will be the most exciting part of the year. It’ll be your first chance to explore a place that’s completely foreign, a place that’s totally new. An opportunity to broaden your horizons. It’s up to you entirely to decide where to live for at least the next three years. That’s a lot of pressure. What if, come September, you’ve made the wrong choice? What if you dread moving day? There’s so much to consider when choosing a uni, so I’ve created the ultimate guide to sorting Higher Ed hiccups before they happen. Here’s our complete guide to choosing your university.

The course

Don’t pick that uni just because your mates are going there. Otherwise, you’ll over-rely on old friendships, rather than pushing outside your comfort zone and meeting new people. Besides, your first focus should always be on the course itself. What’s the point in getting into heaps of debt over something you didn’t enjoy? Look at the available modules.

Will the uni let you specialise however you like in second and third year? Are there evening lectures? Is there a good weighting of exams vs. coursework that suits you? How much time will you get to study independently each week? If you’re in doubt over any of these questions, email the course providers and they’ll be happy to dispel any worries.

The town

My hometown is a big place, but by the time I reached university in Birmingham, I was overwhelmed by the sheer size and scope that only a city could offer. Having McDonald’s Delivery and Uber on my doorstep, as well as a nightlife that was buzzing every day of the week, it was such a welcome change. But this lifestyle might not be for you. 

Are you after a campus or city university? Smaller or bigger universities?

Don’t be afraid to look at club and bar reviews when choosing a uni, or at how many shopping centres are in the centre if that’s important to you. The last thing you want is for any part of your Freshers’ experience to be disappointing.

The housing

Unless you’re living with the cast of Fresh Meat, freshers will typically spend the first year in halls, before buddying-up with mates to take on the challenges offered by private landlords and agencies. Some unis even let second and third years remain in halls, which you might be interested in if you don’t mind mingling with new freshers every year. It’s all about picking what’s right for you.

The rent

Do you ever really think about funding when choosing your university? It’s definitely worth considering, as rent prices differ drastically across the UK. My decent housing in the Second City cost £85 per week, but friends in Bristol complained of grotty digs that went for £125.

London is even worse; how anyone can feed themselves on top of paying rent, bills and funding nights out, I’ll never know. So take note that when choosing your university that happens to be in London, save up!

The societies

Societies can be highly influential in choosing a uni. Societies at uni are where many of us make lifelong friends, so getting a head-start on which groups are available before you start is really beneficial. If you’re into creative writing, for instance, does it not make sense to select somewhere with a sensational society? I’d rather that than having to start my own group from scratch.

The Open Day

There’s only so much this guide can answer without intimate knowledge of where you’re planning on studying, which is why it’s crucial you attend as many Open Days as possible. Have a good think beforehand about what you want to know and have a list of questions ready to go. You should ask the students showing you round some of these questions:

What’s the student area like? Is it safe?

How much support does the uni offer?

Is a weekly food shop going to break the bank?

Should I go for catered or self-catered accommodation?

I wish I’d known to ask those questions before starting my course, especially since student guides and ambassadors at Open Days are the most likely people to spill the beans on what their uni is really like. They’re your best port of call for an insight into your future lifestyle.

Josh Hamilton

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