5 tips for making your 5 choices
Going to university is a massive decision for anyone to make. For me, it was the biggest decision of my life so far, as it was the first time in my life I had full autonomy over the path my life was taking. However, narrowing the huge list of choices down to just 5 is a monumental task which took me weeks of researching and advice from staff at my school to eventually complete. Today I’d like to break down the key factors to take in which will hopefully help in making those 5 key choices for the universities you’d like to go to.
Type of university: “Type” is actually a word I don’t like to use when discussing universities, and rather, prefer the term “personalities”. If you ask most students why they chose their uni, a lot of them will reply with they just had a feeling or that the place they’re at just felt right. I believe this comes down to finding the right personality of university for you. For example, if going to uni for you is about having a great social time and partying, northern universities like Newcastle, Leeds or Manchester are often great choices as they fit that type of personality. For more academically minded universities, where your degree and the quality of teaching are high on your priorities, unis like Oxford, Cambridge and Warwick are fantastic at delivering the high quality of teaching you desire. For some, a more relaxed way of life by the sea is a huge factor, where places like Aberystwyth and Swansea become obvious choices for catering to this lifestyle. Most universities have a key feature or philosophy which defines them, and by researching and finding these “personalities”, it can help in finding your perfect uni much easier.
Course: Another key feature which will define your choice is what course you want to do. This is because a course can be taught in many different ways depending on the institution. Geography, for example, can be taught as a BA (Bachelor of Arts) or a BSc (Bachelor of Science), shifting the focus from a humanity subject to a science, or can be split into more focused areas such as Human Geography. Finding your perfect course can help to narrow down what unis you’d like to go to, by placing your degree and how you enjoy engaging with your subject at the centre of your search.
Career Pathways: For many, including myself, the end goal of university always played on my mind. The idea of doing my degree and not being able to get a job terrified me, naturally meaning it became a key area which I researched when looking at my universities. When you are considering this, look at what course you’re thinking of doing and what skills it gives you. Some courses, such as Law and Medicine, lead very heavily in particular fields whilst other degrees like Geography and History give you a much broader set of skills and opportunities for employment. If you know you want to be a lawyer who is based in London, then applying to do Law at places like UCL and LSE is obviously the way to go in order to get the best foundations for the career you want. However, if you’re less sure what you want to do, going somewhere with a strong careers centre such as Warwick, is always a good way to ensure you will get the direction you need in order to make an informed decision.
Academic Prestige: The prestige of the university is often a key drawing factor for many people. This can come in many forms, but I would advise caution if this is the only aspect you’re looking for, as the best academic uni you could possibly achieve may not be the environment or experience you want from university regardless of your aspirations. One way of researching a unis prestige is by looking at league tables. There are many out there, such as the Complete University Guide, Guardian University Guide and the QS World University Rankings, ranking universities on factors such as their graduate prospects, entry requirements and student satisfaction. Although these league tables are effective in showing which universities are considered more academically prestigious, the placement from table to table often ranges massively, meaning it is difficult to judge where a university is overall placed. Nevertheless, these tables can be helpful in choosing your 5 if high academic prestige is a big driving factor for you, as it gives a subjective numerical value to each uni, meaning you can choose the higher ranking unis. Another method of tracking academic prestige is the Russell Group universities. These are research intensive unis offering a wide range of subjects and are often targeted by employers looking for graduates to join their business. If going to a Russell Group uni is your aim, that’s great, but don’t rule out universities just because they aren’t Russell Group. Unis like Bath, Surrey and East Anglia all rank highly in league tables but aren’t researched focused or lack the width of subjects but are still targeted by employers and share many of the same benefits as Russell Group unis, so don’t be put off to applying to these institutions.
Extra-Curricular Opportunities: Societies and Sports teams make a huge part of your social and extracurricular life. They can often act as stress relief, opportunities to meet new people and to continue previous hobbies and interests. Checking what societies and sports teams you university offers can be a huge thing when deciding universities. For example, if you’re studying History but you’re a highly skilled and competitive rugby player, going to Loughborough could be great to continue your ability in your chosen sport. In addition, if you are love debating and talking about hot topics, having a uni with a strong debating society like Warwick can be another key factor in a uni edging its appeal to your individual taste. Although this shouldn’t be the main reason for choosing a uni, it would be criminal to neglect what will make up large parts of life outside your academic studies. Furthermore, looking at the opportunities outside the university, such as shopping, nightlife and local gyms, can also be key in you living the entire student lifestyle you want to on top of your degree and should be something to consider.
Overall, making your 5 choices should be a process which is entirely personal you. It doesn’t matter what your teacher, parent or friend thinks is best for you because ultimately, it is what you want. My biggest advice for anyone making their choices is to be true to yourself and don’t let one factor or aspect be the reason you make your choices and be sure to consider every part of university life.