When it comes to choosing a university, the course that you wish to study is a hugely important factor. Not all courses are offered at all universities, and some more specific or specialist courses may only be offered at one or two institutions in the entire country. Even if you were to pick a very widely-offered course, such as English or History, you will find that the course content can vary massively between institutions. It’s therefore really important that you have a good look at what courses each institution offers, and whether they can give you what you want from your studies.
There is a wide range of providers when it comes to Higher Education, from universities to colleges to online providers. Which of these might be best for you is a very personal decision, so do your research and work out what you want. Do you want a large campus university, or would you feel more comfortable on a smaller campus? Would you prefer to study at a local college and stay closer to home? Would part-time online study fit your needs best? These are just some of the questions you might ask yourself when deciding which provider is right for you.
There are lots of factors to consider when deciding on a location. Some students choose to move far away from home, whilst others study at a provider close to home and may choose to remain living at home too. Whilst this second option might mean that you are already familiar with the local area and what it has to offer, if you choose to move away from home you should be prepared to do some research about the area you might be living in. Important factors to consider include:
- Travel time and costs to get there and back
- Quality of accommodation on offer
- Does it feel ‘right’?
- Do you like the town/city?
- Do you feel safe there?
- Is it somewhere you’d be happy to spend at least three years?
Accommodation is an important element of your study experience, and there are plenty of different types of accommodation available, including living at home (in some cases), in student halls, or privately rented properties. Where you choose to live is a personal choice, so be sure to give it plenty of thought.
If you choose to live away from home, some key factors to consider include:
- How much does accommodation in your chosen location cost?
- Do you want to live in student halls (accommodation that is usually owned or recommended by the university) or private rented?
- How close do you want/need to live to the university/college?
- Do you want to live alone or with other people?
- Are there any specific features you want (e.g. en suite, double bed)?
- Do you require car parking facilities?
- Are the costs of utilities (e.g. gas, electricity, water) included?
It’s also worth remembering that commitments to student accommodation are on a yearly basis, so you have the option to find new accommodation each year should you wish to.
Depending on your course and interests, there may be some specific facilities that you want or need close by. If your course requires specialist equipment, the range and quality of the facilities available at each institution might be an important deciding factor for you. This can also be relevant for your social life too; if you have a keen interest in sport, does the university or town/city have the facilities you need to allow you to pursue this?
For a lot of students, the social side of their Higher Education experience is as important as the academic side. It’s therefore important to consider whether the universities or colleges you are considering give you what you want when it comes to all things fun! Universities usually have a wide range of clubs and societies that students can get involved in, covering all topics from Tiddly Winks to Extreme Ironing! If there isn’t a society that suits your interests, Student Unions can help you to set one up, so there really can be something for everyone. It’s also worth having a look around the local area and doing some research about the social opportunities available, including bars, restaurants, cinemas and other leisure facilities.
There are plenty of useful sources of information about HE providers, ranging from formal rankings to reviews from current students. These can be handy for finding out what it’s like to actually study at a university or college, as well as information such as employment figures, student satisfaction and any awards that the institution has received. Some useful websites include: