Choosing a university is a different experience for everyone. Some might have a firm idea of where they want to go, but for others it’s trickier. Some might have five offers to think about, or some might have been rejected from the place where they’ve always dreamed of studying. Whichever way, making your choice is the beginning of your university experience.
Open days are best days
The best way to start is to visit every university you have received an offer from. You need to be able to compare all aspects of each university, so take notice of the email invitations to open days and make sure you attend. These are the universities’ chances to show what they can offer you and it’s the only way you’ll get to experience what each is like before you begin in September.
Taking full advantage of open days means doing everything: from campus and accommodation tours to specific subject talks, current students and lecturers are there to offer you a full picture of what student life is like. To get the most out of each visit you should be asking as many questions as you can think of. Whether it’s how many exams you’ll have to sit, or the amount of contact time with tutors per week, answers to these will give you a better idea of what you’ll be doing once you’re there. It can also be really good to know what a current student thinks about things such as student services or the SU, after all, they are there to help you decide whether this is the university for you.
See the sights
Visiting universities is also a great time to get exploring the cities where you’ll potentially be spending the next few years of your life. Once you start to get a feel for the environment, ask whether you can see yourself living here. Take parents, siblings or friends to see what they think. Although it might be difficult to get through a campus visit without your parents tripping over or gushing about how proud of you they are, opinions of those closest to you will really help your decision, and they might have picked up on something that you missed.
Just remember to keep an open mind – some universities will disappoint, and others might surprise you.
When making sure that the course is right for you, university league table positions will either be really important to you, or not at all. Websites like Whatuni and Unistats can be helpful alternatives as they include ratings and reviews from students who study or have studied on that course.
At open days, you will get the most information about your course from subject talks, so find out more from students and lecturers who will provide different perspectives on the course, and look at the modules on offer to see if you will enjoy them.
Moving to university means moving away from your solid support network, home. You’ll be making new friends, having a complete change of scenery and be living more independently, but just how independent do you want to be? For everyone, the question of being ‘too close’ or ‘not close enough’ to home has a different outcome. Taking your ideal distance into account, another thing to consider is whether you actually like the location and campus, as you will be there every day.
As for having the best student experience, find out what societies are on offer. If you have a particular interest, hobby or sport, these are great ways to meet like-minded people once you’re at university. Doing things like signing up to a volunteering scheme or becoming a student ambassador will also be a great way to get involved in university life.
In other extracurricular activities, we all like a good night out to some degree. Whether you’re after a couple of drinks at the local, a themed party at the SU or skanking in a grungy club until 4am, there is always something going on. If you like to go hard, or not hard at all, university towns and cities have such a variety of things of on offer, you’re sure to find something that suits you.
Finally, the choice of university is up to you. Views of family and friends are always helpful, but you have to prioritise what you want from this experience to choose where you’ll be happiest. Open days are the starting point where you really begin to discover a university, so enjoy exploring, and use the invaluable opportunity that open days give you to find out exactly what you need to know to help you choose.