The time is coming when you’ll have to decide what the next step is in this game called life, and you may well be thinking about going to university. Our new blog series on Choosing Your Uni with your head and your heart is here to help! We’ll point out some key things to consider in making this big decision and pass on advice from current and previous students about their experience of choosing a uni. If you’re overwhelmed with how to make the decision, you’ve come to the right place!
Department & Course
Choosing the general course you want to do might be easy but there is more to think about than just whether a university offers that particular subject. Firstly, check out the course modules – does the content interest you? Often, you’ll find that courses with similar titles have different modules at different universities. Make sure you have a thorough read and ask any of the questions that you have. It’s also a good idea to see if the uni offers anything like a year in the industry, or a year studying abroad (depending on your course and if that interests you!) These are really good extras that some universities offer that can provide you with some great real-world experience.
We’d always recommend visiting the university in person, if at all possible. Whilst you’re there, consider what vibe you pick up from the department faculty, and the current students. Are the staff genuinely interested in their students and their subjects? Passionate lectures and staff members are so important to getting you through your uni years, and at times they may even inspire you to keep going! Don’t be afraid to ask questions about contact time, support and availability. Are the students enjoying the course, and was it what they expected? You can get a really good idea of what the course is like by talking to current staff and students.
Possibly an obvious consideration, but this covers more than just course and accommodation fees. Shop around and check out what accommodation options are available to you, and see if and where you can get extra funding from, like bursaries or scholarships. It is also a good idea to research the general cost of living in the area you’re looking at. For example, the price of a beer and burger combo from Wetherspoons can vary up to £3 in the UK! The South will generally be more expensive than the North, and London is a very pricey place to live. This all makes a difference, especially if you’re self-catering or will be renting a house instead of being in halls in your second year. It’s a good idea to look at public transport costs too, or parking availability; public transport can get expensive if your campus is not in walking distance, and parking can sometimes be a bit of a nightmare depending on where you’re based.
This will look different to everyone depending on individual needs and requirements, but essentially you want to find out as much as possible about the support that the university itself offers. What is the student welfare department like, not just in terms of physical needs but mental wellbeing too? How good is their student support? What are their commitments to equality and diversity? What kinds of support do they offer to individuals with specific needs or requirements (including student carers)? It’s an important thing to research, especially if you have any kind of disability, chronic condition or mental illness. The chaplaincy is also a great place to get support if you’re struggling or feeling lonely and need someone to chat through things with. It’s worth checking out whether your prospective uni has an active chaplaincy, and what they offer.
University Facilities & Investments
This might be something that you haven’t thought about, but when you’re looking for a university it’s worth researching where it’s investing its money. Is it putting money into improving its facilities and courses? Does it support its staff and are they treated well? Is the library an environment you would want to work in? What state are the buildings in? What are they doing to improve the student experience? You want to be in a uni that cares about the students and staff, and that wants to make a better learning environment for the people attending. Again, don’t be afraid to ask current students (and even the staff) – this is a big life choice moment here. You may also want to look at a university’s investments more generally if ethical investment is important to you. These details are usually easy to find and there are even some unis that proudly display their ethical investment policies!
This is part one in the Choosing Your Uni series. You can read part one, Choosing a Uni With Your Heart, here.
Rob is a Regional Development Worker for the Midlands, and he takes a lead on the SCM Connect Project. A former student, Youth Worker and musician, he’s a big fan of community (the concept and the US sitcom).