Should you go to University?
This is the first and most important question to answer. It doesn’t matter if it is considered the norm in your family or school, it has to be a decision you make for yourself after weighing up all the options. Almost all degrees cost around £9,000 per year in tuition fees and you have to live, eat and socialise on top of that. Potentially, you are going to rack up £50,000 worth of debt, so make sure you know it’s what you want. If you are having doubts, there are many sources of advice:
- Speak to teachers/head of year
- Careers advisors at your school
- Talk to old students who are currently at university
Having graduated now, I am able to look back on my decision process while choosing which university to go to and which subject to study. The one thing which I heard many times was you ‘have to have a passion for your subject’. This obviously helps but isn’t as crucial as it's always made out to be. As long as you have a reason to go to university beyond drinking a lot and watching day time TV, university still could be right for you. It doesn't actually matter if you’re going to follow certain career path, advance your skills set, or even just giving you the opportunity to earn more money in the future, as long as these incentives are able to drive you throughout university to achieve good grades you don’t necessarily have to love what you do. Sometimes you have to be pragmatic and think about what is going to give you the best opportunities in the future.
After doing all the research and taking the advice, if you are still not sure about university, then you don't have to rush there. After 14 years of education, committing to another three may not be an easy decision at this point. It could be worth taking a year out to experience the world of work, travel and/or achieve something. Going to university a year later than most will not be a problem. Actually, being that little older with more life experiences can improve your ability to adjust to being at university. You have plenty of time to come back to it later on!
For lots of students however, the decision to go is the easy part. It's working out what to do and where to do it that's the tricky bit. Here's some critical advice that every student should follow in their search for the perfect choice....
Choosing a university
With so many universities offering very similar things, it is often difficult to know exactly which is right for you. Fortunately, for most people not just one university will be right for them and they will be happy at a range of institutions. There are some key questions that everyone should ask themselves before committing to a university:
Do they do the course YOU want to do?
No matter how good the nightlife or SU looks at a university, the degree should always come first. If they don’t offer your course or the course they do offer doesn’t appeal to you, that university almost certainly isn't for you. But be prepared to broaden your search and look to joint-honour degrees. It might be that you want to study 2 subjects and can't choose between. At a lot of universities this is easily accommodated.
How far away from home do I want to be?
Apparently the perfect distance is far enough away so they don’t visit all the time, but close enough to go home for a weekend to get some washing done and have a roast dinner. This isn’t an exact science and it depends on individual personality. It is probably worth thinking about the ease of going between home and university.
Is it a campus university?
A campus university is usually its own entity on the outskirts of a city or town. You will most likely live in halls on site; have lectures there as well as most student related activities. In contrast there are city universities which are usually in the heart of a city or town and have buildings in various locations. Many universities today are a hybrid of the two. They both have advantages and disadvantages, so it’s worth thinking about what you would prefer.
University is a time to get involved with new activities and experiences and do more of the things you love to do. If you are a national standard swimming and love to wake up at 6am to go swimming every morning, it’s probably best to go to a university that has a swimming pool and a reputation for excellence in swimming! Decisions about university shouldn’t be made based just on academics and if you have a passion for something and would like to do it at university, make sure you can. If you are lucky to be particularly gifted, be sure to check out scholarships and grant positions as you might just get a leg-up to your desired uni.
Do you like the city/town?
Bear in mind you are going to be living there for at least 3 years, it is good to have a look around the place before you choose to go to a university there. It is vital consideration if someone is relocating for work and it should be the same when thinking about university as this could be where you find your graduate job afterwards.
Is the SU any good?
The Students Union run most things which aren’t academic related, so it’s good to have a look at what they are up to while you're making your decision. You can look on the Student Union website and there are league tables on how highly each SU is rated to help you out. There are so many opportunities to get involved with the SU and it's a huge support network if anything does go wrong whilst you're studying.
Are current students happy?
Student Hut has figures for the student satisfaction on every course at every university. It is always interesting to find out what current students think and this is the only ways to get a real feel for what studying a particular course will be like.
When choosing which university you are putting down as your first and insurance choices, make sure you have visited them first. Most universities offer virtual online tours but you can't get the full feel of a university without actually being there. There are organised open days that you can book onto, usually on Wednesdays. If not, you can just go and wonder around most campuses; although a tour is highly recommended.
Choosing a Degree Course
As I've already touched on; the degree course is the most important consideration when picking your university. You will be studying it for at least three years and at times it's going to be intense. What you have done at Sixth Form or at college will automatically narrow down what you can study at university. However, there is still a huge range of opportunities, especially as a course will differ great depending on the university. Make sure you do the research and follow our advice to help you pick your course
What do you enjoy studying at college/sixth form?
A good place to start is your own experiences. What subjects or even topics do you enjoy studying for A-Levels? Could you see yourself studying that for a further three years? Or do fancy doing something completely different? You will get much better results if you enjoy and are interested in what you study.
What do I want to do in the future?
University gives you the opportunity to expand your horizons within academia, but it is also an investment for the future. When you graduate, you want to make sure you have a plethora of opportunities available to you. If you have some idea of what you would like to do after university, make sure your university degree will facilitate this. If you don't have a clue what you want to do make sure your degree is not going to narrow down your options too much.
Do you want a change?
One of the great things about university is that you can study such a broad range of subjects. If you have started to find traditional university courses slightly tedious, it could be time to study something completely different. Even if you don't have the A-Levels for a course, many universities offer foundation years which prepare you for the course you want to study.
Will you get bored studying too much of the same thing?
Joint honours courses may be a good option if you don't know exactly what you want to do. Most universities will offer a broad range of options, especially with popular subjects. In some cases, the two subjects don't have to be particularly related. Furthermore, in most courses there are opportunities to study abroad or take a year out to work, which will mix things up a bit and give you the chance to experience working in different culture.
How do you like to be taught/assessed?
It is important to know how a degree course is going to be run. Different courses will be taught and most importantly assessed in different ways. Most courses offer some sort of mix of essay, exam, practical and project work but it does always depend on the subject and the institution. If you are a more practical person, for instance, it may be better to pick a course which isn't assessed by exams only. You can find the statistics for all degree courses in an easy format at Student Hut.
What's the reputation?
Getting a university education should not be discouraged and you should choose something which you will enjoy. However, consider the reputation of the course before you make your decision. League tables are an oversimplified way of judging a university or a course, but this is probably the way future employers will look at it. This should not put you off what you want to do, but should be considered.
What have previous students said about the course?
Fortunately you can find out what current and previous students have said about their course. There are statistics which show overall course satisfaction as well as ratings of more specific parts of the course Available on Student Hut. Furthermore, written feedback is the best way to grasp whether you would enjoy actually studying the course. On Student Hut, current students and graduates have left their feedback on their course including their opinions on specific aspects of the course; for example teaching quality and learning resources.
I hope all of that information is a lot to take in. I know it is a lot to taken in! Student Hut has been voted the best resource to help prospective students pick their degrees by the Independent's i100, so you are in good hands. If you haven't signed up already, make sure you do by clicking the 'Log In' button on the top right of your screen.
If you want to start researching your degree options now, click HERE!