how to pick the perfect university/course!
I’m back after a week off (and I’ve thoroughly missed blogging I can tell you), due to participating in a summer school in preparation for university in September! I thought this post couldn’t come at a better time as it goes up, I would have just finished the preparation, so my mind is focused on all things university! This thought takes me back to this time last year, I was preparing for my first summer school, which I attended in Nottingham (read about it here), as well as collecting my thoughts over the 3 open days I went on in June. Looking back, it was a big decision and it can be very overwhelming (I have definitely felt this, especially before my first open day), so I’m here to share my wisdom (if you can call it that!) and help those who are currently looking into universities for next September, or even in future years!
Choosing the perfect university and course are both super important, as you are going to spend 3 years (or more, depending on the degree) in the university studying the same course, so you have to enjoy it really. If you don’t enjoy it, you’re just going to end up dropping out, or paying an extortionate amount of money to do something you actually hate. It is difficult to know what you want to do at 16/17 and I feel like our careers should be decided a lot later, but hey, that’s life! I do want to share my tips on how to pick that perfect university and the perfect course, because once you find that place that feels like home, you’ll understand why it’s so important.
When you first start looking at universities, you look at booking an open day. Open days are one of the key events throughout your university preparation journey, and really help to give you that sense of what it will be like at university. Of course, with Coronavirus right now still being a big thing in the UK, most open days have been taken online. I understand this can be a pain, but you’ve got to make the most of it! Research the site, do online tours of both campus and accommodation, speak to university tutors and students online: they are there to answer any questions you might have! Another point I’d like to mention while talking about open days: ASK QUESTIONS! So many students shy away from this as they don’t want to be a pain, but asking questions is key to getting the most out of your time with a university tutor and it means you won’t be left confused. If you feel like you’re going to freeze up and forget any questions, write them down, whether that be on a bit if paper or your phone, just engage with a tutor, or a student, and they will be able to help! Speaking to students is also important as they are able to give you their experiences as a student at that university doing that specific course. It can help you to decide ‘well, is that what I want my experience to be like?’.
One thing that is good for open days is having a notebook: I used mine when doing any university research, from the first 6 courses I looked at, to open days, to even more courses I looked at, to the more in-depth research into my chosen university. I took it to all the universities I went to, and if I were staying the night in a hotel, I’d spend a little bit of time that night to writing down my thoughts, what I liked/disliked about the university and the courses I was interested in (I looked at about 4 different courses before deciding). This really helps later down the line in October/November time when you start to make your choices about your university options, as you can look back and go ‘well that’s what my thoughts were then, what are my thoughts now?’ and it is just a good thing to reflect on.
You’re most likely going to be moving away from home when attending university, so you have to find somewhere that feels like home. For me personally, this is a city. I thrive in the city and I am a much happier person, so moving to a city for university was definitely a preference for me. You have to feel comfortable and be able to deal with living away from home so as well as it feeling the best place, you have to take into account the distance from home and the travelling you will have to do when you go to and from home. If you feel you can live 5/6 hours away from home then do it, but if you feel you can only go an hour from home, then do that! It is personal preference though. It is very common for most people to travel about 2/3 hours to university, and that is roughly how far I am travelling as of September, in my eyes, it’s just the perfect balance. One thing to mention is that everyone will get homesick at some point: even if they don’t show it!
A simple thing but this might be overlooked when looking at a university and a course: you’ve got to be happy there. As I’ve mentioned before, if you don’t feel happy on the course at the university you choose, your mental health will decline, and that really isn’t good when attending university. You have to be excited to learn the content on your course, excited to live with new people, and excited to be in a new place, and if you don’t feel this then it could potentially be a downfall.
Another tip I have when looking at universities and courses is to use league tables. They give you a good indication on how good a university is overall and how good it is for a specific course. Don’t rely on these heavily though: I would recommend when starting to do university research, potentially look at where is best for the course you want to do. I don’t think these should be the most important influence on making a decision, I would definitely recommend looking at what makes you happy and whether the place feels right for you!
Again, when looking at a university, decide on whether you want a campus or a city university. A campus university is a university situated on one site, with student accommodation, teaching and research facilities, and leisure activities all together. Examples of campus universities are: Bath, Exeter, Nottingham, Warwick and York. A city university has buildings all around the city, so not everything is in one place. Examples of city universities are: Bristol, Edinburgh, Oxbridge, Newcastle and Manchester. I really had no preference but one thing I can mention about campus universities is that a lot of them are on the outskirts of the city, there aren’t many situated in the centre. So, if being in the city is a major factor for you, then I would look at a city university. Personally, I have chosen a city university, and as I said I had no preference as most of the Open Days I went to, they were actually campus universities!
Finally, probably one of the biggest points to make: do your research. If you don’t research at all on where you want to attend university or the courses they offer, you won’t get anything out of going to open days, and you’ll still be as clueless as you were at the start of the university journey. I would say do as much research as you can, and write down as much as you can about it, it will really help! Look at university sites, speak to students, look at your course in detail, learn as much as you can because when it comes to making a decision in the autumn/winter time on your firm and insurance choices, it will be a lot easier!
I feel like I have rambled on long enough about this now so I am wrapping this post up! I’d also like to mention that I’m so happy to be back after taking this week off because of my summer school which went really well! A big thank you to anyone who took part in the questionnaire too, it was greatly appreciated! I will be back on Friday with a new post, have an amazing week,