Deciding on which university
Deciding where you want to study for your degree is a big decision. Should you be swayed by the course, the location or the uni's reputation?
So which university should I choose then?
First, decide what you'd like to study. You could start something completely new, or continue with a subject that you're currently studying at A-level, Advanced Higher, Diploma, International Baccalaureate or equivalent. If there's something you really enjoy, or are good at, discuss the idea of studying it at degree level with your tutor and find out what careers that degree could lead to.
Are you interested in an academic course or a 'vocational' one that could lead to a particular job, such as teaching, journalism or civil engineering? If you have too many options, maybe you could combine two subjects as part of a joint honours degree?
What else should I think about?
- Some degrees give you work experience while you're studying - very helpful when you graduate and are looking for a professional job.
- What's your learning style? You might prefer continuous assessment, open book exams or practical projects rather than written assignments and tests.
- Would you like to spend some time abroad? Plenty of courses now provide this opportunity. But a word of warning from Dave, who graduated two years ago: "I chose my degree just because it involved a term in the States. I should have thought harder; I hated the course and dropped out. I had to start again at another college a year later."
Once you have a few ideas look for more information in the university prospectus and on its website.
How can I be sure I'll get into my chosen university?
Be realistic about how well you'll do in your exams. Universities state the results they want from each candidate and won't consider anyone unlikely to achieve these. They may accept you on a conditional offer, which means you'll only get a place if you get certain grades, so only apply if you're confident you can reach what they're asking for.
Are you taking the right options? Some degrees require you to have studied certain subjects first. For instance, architecture might need a background in physics or in art - depending on where you apply; some psychology degrees ask for science qualifications, and general studies isn't always counted.
How do I decide where to live?
Do you want to stay at home? It's cheaper than student halls of residence or renting, but you may miss out on the buzz of student life. Katie, a recent graduate, decided to stay at home. "It suited me - I went to a small, local university where the tutors got to know you," she says. "I got a better degree than if I'd been a small fish in a big pond."
If you decide to move away from home, consider the location carefully. Some people go for a campus university where classrooms and accommodation are on one site. Others prefer living in town and getting to know a new area.
Take your non-academic life into account, too. Many universities owe their popularity to the local football team, the possibilities for leisure activities, like surfing, or the city's thriving club scene. If you like a good social life, it could be a mistake to go somewhere too quiet.
How can I avoid making the wrong decision?
- It's not a good idea to pick a university just because friends are going there or it has a good reputation; think about what's right for you.
- Don't assume that all courses with the same title cover the same ground. They will vary between universities.
- Try not to dither for too long. For some degrees, you have to apply nearly a year in advance; for most, the cut-off dates are the January before you start.
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