Is deciding on where to go after school leaving you confused? There are so many factors to consider – location, type of school, prestige, as well as the courses on offer. And with over 160 universities in the UK alone, it can be difficult to know where to start.
Each university in the UK has its own history, facilities, and areas of specialisation. This means you can tailor your studies to your aspirations and career goals. But then there’s also your happiness to consider. Where will you feel most fulfilled, enriched, and able to enjoy your hobbies? And what if you’re unsure of the career you want to pursue?
Here are a few guidelines on what to look for in a university when you’re ready to decide.
1. Get your head around the rankings
There are many different ways to rank universities, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. For example, some rankings focus primarily on research and reputation, while others also consider teaching quality or student satisfaction. Some rankings even take into account a university’s environmental and ethical performances.
So which ranking is the best? That depends on what you want from a university. If research is your top priority, you should look at rankings listing institutions that tout a curriculum that’s more academic than vocational. If you value student satisfaction, then your focus would be on rankings that show an investment in student well-being through facilities and social structures.
There is no magic formula when choosing a university. Different students have different needs and preferences, so naturally selection is divergent. That’s why it’s essential to do your research and not just rely on university rankings.
2. Weigh up your options
The university you choose will be your home for a number of years and the springboard for your career. That’s why it’s crucial to get a balanced picture of what the university will offer you. Some of the factors you should consider when choosing a university are:
Undoubtedly, you should choose a programme whose admission requirements are in line with your expected grades. Your second choice should be a course where acceptance would be a certainty should your first option be unavailable to you. The last thing you want is not to get a university place and have to retake exams.
Course structure and flexibility
Most universities offer a wide variety of courses of study, so be sure to compare them before deciding. Pay attention to the course structure and modules as well as additional opportunities such as studying abroad or a year working in an industry. Also, consider your prospects for a job after graduation and your career goals. You should find helpful information on the universities’ websites. However, if something is unclear, don’t hesitate to contact the school and ask for clarification.
Decide on where you want to live
An important consideration is the location of the university. Do you want to live in a busy city or a small university town? Another factor is the cost of living in the area surrounding the university. Is it an affordable location? For some students, living at home and attending a local institution may be a more economical option.
Alternatively, student accommodation could offer the taste of independence that you’re looking for. Some students prefer an on-site university because of the sense of community, while others feel that distance-learning offers them more freedom. Ultimately, your choice must suit your lifestyle and accommodate your intended course structure.
Find out about the sports and social offerings
Before choosing a university, it’s a good idea to find out about the amenities available there. Some universities are known for their excellent sports facilities, while others may have a more comprehensive selection of clubs and societies. Attending an open day is a great way to get a feel for the campus and see what activities are on offer.
There are obviously financial implications when it comes to studying. These include tuition, books, stationery, travel etc. You should compile a budget indicating what funds you have available and whether you need to take out a student loan or get a part-time job to pay some of your bills. Can you focus solely on your studies or will you need to work? This may affect the type of course and institution you choose.
3. Check it out in person
If you want to get a feel for what a university is like, the best thing to do is to attend an open day. There will be lots of students doing the same thing, and lots of activities on offer, including presentations on courses, so planning is essential. This is an excellent opportunity to learn more about what it means to be a student at the university.
4. Get career advice
Career guidance can help you make the right enrollment decisions based on your particular skills and interests. You can work directly with a career counsellor, but many students choose to complete career assessments online. They are designed to help you find a career path that you are comfortable with and enjoy.
CareerFit, for example, gives you a personalised list of careers that are ideal for you. Once you have researched the various degree programmes available in the fields that interest you, you can begin to create a short list of institutions and courses. Your report will include university, further education, apprenticeship, or trainee course types for each career you have shortlisted.
It will also help you decide whether you should study locally or internationally. Depending on the country of the report, you will be directed to suitable universities in Ireland, the UK, abroad, or online.
Struggling to find the right university? Start with career guidance
CareerFit provides a personalised report with 16 different careers matching your individual interests and skills. Based on this, you can choose the best university for you and begin pursuing the career of your dreams. Get in touch today and let us guide you in this important decision.