How to choose the right university for you
I can't believe its been 5 years since I was running around the UK, attending open days, getting a different prospectus through the door every week and generally getting excited about going away to uni.
As it's getting to that time of year where you're having to make your choices, I thought I'd give a few tips about choosing the right university for you.
1. Make sure you're genuinely interested in what you're choosing to study - I know this might sound silly, but lots of people study things because they're told they're good at it, or that it's what blah blah blah wants them to study. It's your life, pursue something you're passionate about. It'll really help when the work gets hard.
2. Make sure the course is right for you - Just because one course has the same name as another, it doesn't mean they cover the same things. I studied events management, so as you can imagine some of the courses I saw made me despair. I knew I could quite easily have ended up doing a Mickey Mouse course, folding napkins and blowing up balloons, like everyone expects I have done. However, I chose my course as it was very business based, just the business knowledge was applied to events. Do your research and choose what's right for you.
3. Consider where in the country you want to be - Everyone is different. I have friends who went to uni half an hour away from home, whereas I chose to go 3 hours away. Go where you're comfortable. Personally, I think I benefitted greatly from going to uni so far away. I couldn't just pop home for food, washing or just home comforts whenever I wanted. I not only gained an education, but also more independence and confidence in myself.
4. Travel - On that note, travel is something to keep in mind. It used to take me about 4 hours with at least one change to get home each time on the train and it wasn't cheap. Some people I know used to fly as it was quicker and cheaper. If you're going far away from home, keep this in mind so you're comfortable with how you may have to travel.
5. Go with your gut - As soon as I went to the open day of my university I knew it was the one. I just felt as though I was at home there and everything just seemed to click into place. In contrast, I went to one open day and had only just stepped off the train and knew it wasn't for me. Although the friend I went with chose that as her first choice. Everyone is different.
6. Go to as many open days as you can - The prospectus is going to make it sound the best it can be, take photos of only the most attractive buildings and boast its best facilities. On open days you can visit the building you'll be based in, meet some of your tutors and get a much better feel of the place than you can from paper.
7. Look at what else the university has to offer - Sports, societies, good events at the union, support if needed. All of these are things you should look at, as they can make your time at uni that little bit better.
8. Consider nightlife - Of course, a large element of university is the nightlife. I went to Sheffield, which has a student population of around 50,000 so there was always something on and people visiting have always said what a good night out it is. If this is something you think you'll get involved in, you might as well consider that aspect of the university too. After all, you don't want to end up going to the university who boast about their once a week bus trip to Asda rather than their great union nights.
9. Stay later - I asked my friends what they thought was a good tip, so I didn't forget anything. Eppie suggested staying after the open day for a meal, so then you can get a feel of the city at night time too.
10. Don't stop there - Once you've registered your interest in your top five to UCAS and start getting offers, attend any applicant open days you get invited too, especially for your first and second choices. You can never ask too many questions to tutors or visit the place you'll be spending some of the best years of your life.
Overall, I'd suggest you narrow it down to about 8 universities which you're interested in and go and visit them all. Ask questions, explore and enjoy yourself. You're going to be spending the next 3 or 4 years of your life here, make sure it's the right place for you.