Choosing the right UK universities to apply for can seem like a bit of a minefield. Looking online there is an endless sea of opinions and blogs about each individual university, and there are over 150 of them!
Luckily for those applying to UK universities the Times Higher Education world university rankings are available to review. Universities are compared using a number of different metrics such as teaching excellence, research, number of international students and more.
Using this list will give you an idea of which universities are more repeatable and promising than others, but your decision making process only starts there. Below is a brief guide to choosing the right UK university for you.
Properly research your university choices!
Make sure you’re not missing out on courses with very similar content but differing degree titles. There are a wide variety of degree options and combinations so check each university offering carefully.
Don’t forget that the majority of university courses are listed on the UCAS website. If you already have a few cities or area of the country that you would like to stick to then you can filter these courses by location.
You may want to try and pick over five locations as your choices will get narrowed down as you go through the rest of this guide. Check each university’s social media pages to see if they do any live Q&A sessions for prospective students.
Location location location
We’ve already touched on location when doing your initial research. Location can be more important than it initially seems as it impacts on a wide variety of your experiences at university. You need to think about day-to-day facts like logistics, weather and finance.
How easy is it to get from your university back home? In fact, how well connected is it overall in terms of transport links?
Some students prefer to live in a campus style university whilst others choose the hustle and bustle of the city. Each will have its own pros and cons, so again this is one of the things you would want to discuss with any current students you speak to.
This is the place where you will hopefully be spending the next 3 to 4 years so make sure you like the culture of the surrounding city. Finally, not all cities are created equal. We strongly advise that you research the cost of living in each city as you may be surprised to find how expensive some cities are in comparison to others.
Check the University ranking
We’ve already covered the Times Higher Education guide to the best universities around the world. There are a number of other options such as the Guardian and Complete University Guide UK league tables.
The most commonly referred to world rankings list for universities is the QS list. This annual publication of university rankings used to be produced in conjunction with Times Higher Education. However from 2009 onwards, the Times Higher Education group decided to use a new methodology to create the University rankings.
The QS World University Rankings however are the only list to have received international ranking expert group approval. As with a number of university guides, some criticism has been aimed at the list as it relies on a number of subjective and survey based factors. This is why the next point is so important.
Time for a university open day road trip!
You can do as much internet based research as you like but it will never be the same as actually speaking to university staff or travelling to the university itself. If you are unable to travel make sure you get on the phone and get more details on your preferred course, potential fees, funding and student life.
To get a real sense of the University however you will want to try and make it to one of the many university open days. Ideally this should be done after you have already narrowed down your list and have around 5 to 10 choices in mind. When you get to the university don’t just wander around the buildings that you are shown, instead venture out to other parts of the university, accommodation and wider city.
Open days are great opportunities to speak to current students and get a first-hand idea of what it’s really like to study and live at that university. Don’t miss it.
Your future student life
If you find yourself stuck between two similar university courses then you want to take a closer look at their extracurricular offerings. Most universities offer the same range of core subjects but due to funding and geographical location or simply previous student ingenuity there may be a wide range of exciting and new ventures for you to try.
With all the studying that you will be doing, extracurricular activities provide you with a chance to destress and add to your overall enjoyment of your time at university.
With all that being said however, there may be one particular society or activity which you wish to do at university but it is not currently offered. You can always form that society yourself once you start, something to add to your CV when you graduate!
Student support networks
these days universities are getting much better providing a good amount of student support. Increasingly mental health concerns are being raised in the media, particularly when it comes to stressed-out students.
As a result student advice and counselling is commonly found in universities alongside personal tutors or guidance programs and for the later years careers advice as well.
University brings a whole host of new challenges and even the strongest students can struggle at times. Make sure the university you are applying to offers these services and make a note of how to access them before you start university.
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