When it comes to choosing which university to attend, there are several factors that you should consider. After completing a rigorous high school system, you want to ensure that all your hard work will lead you to a place that you know you’ll love and feel at home in. Knowing which university you’re aiming for will also give you a clearer focus when you’re studying for your exams. This is why I’ve created a list of things to help you learn how to choose which university to attend based on your personal preferences.
All the points I’ve listed here I also completed when I was choosing a university to attend. I was doing all of this research whilst attending school, and I even visited some universities to get a good feel of the atmosphere.
Here are a bunch of questions and points you’ll need to consider to help you decide which university you want to attend. At this point, if you’re applying to a university in the UK, you would have chosen your top 5 university choices and are now in the middle of deciding what your firm and insurance choices are. If you’re not based in the UK, you can still use these points to decide which university is right for you.
This is an obvious one. You need to ask yourself if you like the location. You don’t want to live in a place that you don’t like. In the UK, there are universities scattered all around, so you’ll need to decide if you like where it’s located. If you’re planning on studying internationally, you’ll need to also look at the language. Is the university located in a country with your preferred language?
- Is the university in the country you prefer?
- Do you like being closer to home or further away from home?
- Do they speak your preferred language (if you’re looking at universities internationally)
Are you more of a city person or do you prefer the countryside? –
In the UK, there’s a range of universities, all located in different areas. The two most known categories are whether the university is located in a city or more in the countryside? You need to ask yourself whether you prefer being in the city, where it is generally busier, or you prefer living in the outskirts of town, in a more rural, quiet area.
The benefits of living in the city are that there’s generally more to offer – there’s usually more restaurants, pubs and activities to do in the city. City universities are also generally larger, so there’s more opportunity to meet new people who aren’t in your course. That also means that the university wouldn’t be considered a campus university – so your lectures could be scattered all around the city. You will, therefore, need to spend more time travelling in between lectures, which could also be costly, depending on how far apart your lectures are located. Learn more about how current students budget and spend monthly. It will give you a clearer view whether the university is financially right for you. Look at my university budgeting and spending here.
A university in the countryside means that you’ll have more contact with nature, and it will be a lot quieter than in the city. You might have less exposure to restaurants and pubs, but you have a lot more outdoor activities you can do instead. Chances are, your university will be a campus uni if it’s located in the countryside and it’ll generally be a lot smaller than city universities. This means you’ll likely have all your lectures close by, but you’ll also be living on/near campus.
This is an especially important point to consider when you’re trying to figure out how to choose which university is right for you. You want to live in an area you’re the most comfortable in.
- Do you prefer being in the city or the countryside?
- Do you like the idea of living on campus?
- Are you willing/Can you afford to pay for transport between your different lectures?
- How big of a university do you prefer?
- Are there activities in that city/town that you’re interested in besides the university?
Look at the university rankings –
Do you care how high your university ranks? An example of ranking is the Guardian University League 2020. You can research how well your university performed in the last year based on league table rankings. They have an option to rank all universities in general, or you can go more specific to your degree choice. You’ll be able to see how well your university/course ranks compared to others. If you care about the rankings, then this is something you should consider.
Usually, the higher-ranked universities are harder to get in to. That means they have higher grade requirements, so you need to put the grade requirements into consideration when looking at the rankings. Besides, the higher-ranking universities also tend to have a more rigorous course. The degrees differ in every university, but a course at Oxford University has historically been more challenging than the same course at a lower-ranked university.
- Are the rankings important to you?
- Do you prefer to attend a university that is ranked higher than others?
- If the rankings are important to you, what ranking would be ‘sufficient’ or ‘acceptable’ for you?
- Do your grades meet the requirements for the universities in your chosen ranking?
Do you meet the grade requirements? –
So besides wanting to choose the location of your university and learning more about their rankings, you need to consider how your grades can interlink with your choices. You can’t choose a university as your firm choice if you don’t have the grades to meet their requirements.
In the UK, the universities use predicted grades to give you an initial offer. Based on your experience, work ethic and general interest in studying and getting the grades, you need to choose a university where you think you can meet their grade requirements. If you don’t meet the grades, you’ll easily lose your place at the university.
If you’ve taken a gap year or are coming from abroad where the school system starts in January, then you’ll have your final grades already. You can then compare those grades to the universities’ requirements to see which university you’d be accepted for.
- Do you know the grade requirements for the universities you are considering?
- Do you know your predicted grades/final grades?
- Do you think you can get the grades required from the universities?
Look at the university accommodation –
Unless you’re attending the university in your home town, you’ll likely be living at an accommodation during your university experience. Most universities in the UK have guaranteed accommodation spots for their first-year university students. You’ll need to consider accommodation types and if your chosen university has your accommodation requirements. Some students use university housing, but you can also look at private housing options.
Most universities have loads of options for accommodation, so you’ll need to do some careful research based on your preferences.
- Do you want to live at university accommodation? Are you considering university housing or private housing?
- How much are you willing to pay for the housing? Do the housings listed meet those requirements? Is the price range affordable for you?
- How far should your housing be from your university? Do you prefer living on-campus or off-campus?
- How many people are you willing to live with?
- Do you prefer an ensuite room (where you have your own bathroom) or do you want to share bathroom facilities?
Look at the course –
Even though many universities offer the same degrees, each course is usually laid out slightly different. Different universities have different specialities and therefore offer different learning outcomes for their students. Universities usually have course catalogues available for students looking to attend their university. Look at their course layout in-depth and see whether it meets your requirements and interests.
Some universities offer a year in industry/study abroad opportunities and some do not. And some courses make the study abroad mandatory. It depends on your course and the university, and it’s worth looking into it before you commit.
- Does the university offer the modules you’re interested in?
- Do they offer a year abroad/year in industry opportunities that you might be interested in?
- Does the length of the course meet your requirements?
- Is there flexibility in the modules you can choose?
Look at the university website for information and statistics –
All universities publish a wide range of information about their faculty, students and university life in general. Looking at their information and published statistics is an important part of choosing the right university. They publish how many professors they have, the ratio between international and home students, the types of societies and so much more.
If you’re an international student looking to study in the UK, it’s worth looking at the ratio between international and home students in your course/at the university. That’s a good guide for you to ensure that you’ll find the students that you can relate to the most. It’s also worth looking at the type of support your university gives you as an international student.
Research the university in-depth, for all aspects and then ask yourself:
- Do they have societies that interest you?
- Do they have enough support for you as a student
- What are the international student and home student ratio at the university/course? Is this what meets your requirements?
Go to Open Days and Applicant Days –
Everything I’ve mentioned in this list so far is based on a lot of research. I know research can be tedious sometimes, especially if you need to do it for all the universities you’re considering, but it is vital if you want to ensure you’ll like the university you’ll choose. Researching all aspects of the university will help you decide if that university is right for you.
But besides actual research, I highly recommend you attend open days and applicant days. These days are organised by the university and give you a glimpse into their university life. This is a good opportunity for you to speak to professors, faculty and older students, so you can learn first-hand about the university, their course and their opportunities available to you. You’ll also get a good feel of the surroundings – usually, that will help you decide if that university works with your requirements and interest.
After attending the open days/applicant days, ask yourself:
- Did you like the university (physically)?
- Do you like the university’s location?
- Do you like their facilities?
- Do you like the course structure and contents?
- Did you speak to the students? What did they tell you? Does their first-hand knowledge appeal to you?
There are many points I’ve mentioned in this post about how to choose which university to attend. Choosing a university can be a difficult process, especially when all universities seem to be similar. However, researching and understanding the different university structures and requirements is essential for you choosing the right university. There are slight differences with each university, and you’ll find those through research. Ask yourself all those questions and it should help you lean towards a certain university.
You should do the right research. Otherwise, you’ll choose a university that only meets a few of your expectations, and you won’t enjoy your university experience. You’ve worked so hard during high school – you worked so hard to get the grades you need for university, you don’t want to choose the wrong university and waste all that hard work.
I completed all the steps above when I was choosing which university I wanted to attend. It took me a while to research all five of my uni choices, but I eventually managed to do enough research for me to be confident in which university I wanted to attend. Once I chose which university, I studied my butt off to get the grades required by that university. And it paid off. It was worth it.