Three years ago, I applied to the University of Derby. It wasn’t something I did in 10 minutes, it was one of the toughest decisions I had to make. I wanted to make sure I chose the right university for me and so took a year or more to look.
I have Cerebral Palsy – so not only did I have to look for a university that was right for my chosen subject, but one that was right for my disability.
How to choose the right University:
Here’s what I suggest. If you are still in your first year at College or Sixth Form, start looking at universities now. Log onto the UCAS website (or your country equivalent), browse the universities that do your chosen course and narrow it down to around 5-7 choices.
By choices, I mean different universities, not the courses if you’re thinking of doing joint honours or a course that is similar to another. E.g Media and Film studies are closely linked.
There are thousands of courses and so it’s not uncommon for results to be in the hundreds. That means there will be a lot of narrowing down.
Suggestions and Tips
Here are a few suggestions on how to narrow your selection down before you go on an open day.
This one sounds odd, but one that I think should be taken into consideration. The Website. Universities often use the same or similar theme for their student resources as they do on their website, so if you struggle with it and it annoys you, see what universities have a better one.
- Is it easy to navigate?
- easy to use?
- visually appealing
Are you going to be in a class of 30-60 people, or are you going to be in a lecture hall of 100-250 students? Which one will you feel more comfortable with?
Exams or no exams?
If you are like me, then
London means you will have more living
Have a look at the average cost of living in the city that the universities are located in.
Accommodation is another thing to look at. Some universities charge £4000-6000 a year for halls. That is roughly the average. However, others can charge £6000 for the cheap, standard room. So it is always good to look.
What do you expect to achieve? What’s the lowest entry grade you’d accept? What’s the highest you think you can achieve?
If you are predicted BCC in your A-levels (or whatever the equivalent is in your country) then it is no good looking at somewhere like Oxford that wants A*AA. Similarly, you wouldn’t want to choose a Uni that is too low, offering grades far below
Narrowing the last 20 unis
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a massive, massive fan of spreadsheets. I do prefer Google Sheets to Excel but use whatever you feel comfortable with. You’re going to need it.
Create a spreadsheet and copy and paste the remaining 20 Uni’s and their courses
There may be more than one course that intrigues you at that uni, make sure you add them all. Ideally, you should have between 20-35 entries on the sheet.
Next, go back to the suggested tips and add across cell 1. A1 will be University name.
Looking at the course
When considering the right university course, have a look at the following:
- The modules you have to take and the optional modules are probably one of the most important considerations when choosing a university course.
- Distance – how far would you need to travel to get to university and home?
- Accommodation – how far is it from everything?
Remove the ones you gave the lowest rating
Once you have your 5-7 Universities, start visiting them. Look at the atmosphere, how the open day is thought out. The city itself.
What made a good open day for me:
On my list, the University of Derby and Bangor University were the best when it came to the Open Day event.
They were friendly, welcoming and informative. Stands were placed on the main campus that had clear headings, including student wellbeing. An inventory of talks for your course was clearly laid out in the little booklet they gave you.
I didn’t like the narrowed pavement of Bangor’s city, but Derby’s City is small, mostly pedestrianised with a shopping centre placed in the middle of it. It was Perfect
First impressions are everything
On the other hand, Portsmouth University was the complete opposite, prior to the day, they gave me a map of available car parks around the city but none of them seemed to exist. No one was around to direct us when we eventually found a car park. The locals weren’t particularly interested to help either.
One of the staff seemed annoyed when we arrived, just after the registration time. We rushed to the first talk; creative writing.
Now here was Portsmouth’s only plus side. The teacher was friendly and cheerful. I could see myself enjoying the course, but I wasn’t too keen on the atmosphere of the university as a whole.
We then went to see the accommodation, and they stunk. Literally stunk. The student showing us around felt obliged to apologise.
Finally, we went to the Media Studies talk. The lecturer ranted about how much of a privilege it would be if we, the prospective students, were considered by the university. This put me off. It works both ways and I didn’t want to study at a university that felt it wasn’t a privilege if I chose them.
After all, the university you choose needs you just as much as you need them, but the Media teacher saw it as a one-way street. I also found it hard to find any information on disabled students and accessibility.
Choose the right university with the
You need a University that sees you as an individual, has your needs in its interests and feels privileged just by you visiting them. One you can see yourself visiting on a daily basis, not just a place of learning but as an equal.
If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy the following:
- Choosing a University: My Experience
- 12 Dissertation Tips
- My Masters so far
- A Guide to Choosing a University