Friday, 22 October 2010

Choosing a University - What UCAS doesnt tell you.

Its that time of year again, when people are choosing whether or not to go on to higher education, where to go and what to do. Its more than a little mind blowing! Having gone through the UCAS application process three (yes, three) times, I feel like perhaps I have a little wisdom to pass on! This is, at least, stuff I wish someone had said to me.

  • Do you want a city university? For some people (myself included), living in a big, happening city is very important. Some people prefer somewhere that feels homely and safe. Its fairly obvious where the line is to be drawn - and I guess its different for different people. London will be mad crazy, Manchester or Nottingham will still feel big, Lincoln or Coventry will be less packed and greener.
  • How big a university do you want? Some people love to be part of a big university, thousands of students where they can always meet new people. Some people prefer to go somewhere will more of a college sytem, Bishop Grotteseseste for example, where you get to know everyone and its like a big family.
  • Do you want a campus university? City universities can be really fun, theres always stuff to see, and are highly convenient for other stuff. On the other hand, campus universities feel wonderfully cosy.
  • How important is reputation to you? This sort of depends on where you want to go afterwards. A degree in medicine is a degree in medicine, and whilst there is a lot of variation in the standard of teaching, you will get a job as a Doctor afterwards. With something like journalism on the other hand, its very competitive, and the reputation of the university you went to could have a big impact on your employbility. As a rule of thumb, I would say go to the best university your grades will let you - but its not the be all and end all.
  • Suddenly, the North/South divide will become massively important to you. You will take great pride in the half of the country you are from, and whether you want to stay in the half that pronounces bath the same as you do or not is actually worth considering. People are lovely wherever you go, but it will give a different feel to your university experience. There's also a cost implication - basically, the nearer London you go, the more expensive beer gets.
  • How near to home do you want to be? I know some people who moved to the other end of the country. I know some people who are living at home - personally, I really think you should live away, because you miss out on so much at home, and so much of your learning is outside of lectures. I am aware however, that for some people its the best choice, financially and practically. I live about two hours on a train away from my family, which is pretty much perfect for me; not too near, not too far.
  • What kind of accomodation do you want? Some universities only offer self-catered. Some offer on campus. Some dont have any university affiliated accomodation. Where you live is a huuge part of life, and you need to take it into account when making your choices.
  • How is the course taught? You need to think about this both in terms of contact time, how practical the course is, and how independant your learning is expected to be. The same course can be delivered completely differently at two different unis, and you need to think about how you'll work best.
  • How expensive will living there be? Again, the nearer to London you go, the more expensive. Cities are usually more expensive than rural areas, but not always. Do a little investigation into the cost of rent. It might not affect you this year, but next year it most definately will. Its worth noting that you do get a considerably bigger loan if you go to London - but you will have significantly more to pay back. Also, some unis offer grants or bursaries for certain courses that others dont - definately worth looking into.
Its obvious, but dont go somewhere just cos you know someone else is doing. I know people who did this, and never saw each other after freshers week. The important ones you will keep in contact with, even if your in Portsmouth and they're in Edinburgh. And - I hate to say it - listen to your family and your teachers. Ouch. Seriously though, they probably do have your best interests at heart - why wouldnt they? I reeeally wish I'd listened to my family the first (oh wait, and the second...) time round! Of course, the most important thing is that its your decision. The fact is, wherever you go, you will fall in love with. I dont know anyone who doesnt think their uni is the best in the country. Visit as many places as you can - a lot of people choose somewhere for no reason beyond 'it felt right', and that seems to work. Go with your gut instinct, I'm a big believer in that. Let your heart and your head fight it out - they both have a say on this one.


  1. JeppJeppJeppJeppJepp22 October 2010 at 23:14

    You're so cute and full of wisdom Rio, that was a good read :)

  2. You are a wise owl!

  3. Cottage cheese is best eaten, in a cottage. Really.


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