How to choose a university

by Catherine Brabin

If you’re in sixth form and finding it hard to decide on which university you want to go to, don’t worry! Most undergraduate students have experienced similar uncertainty, including myself. So, in this article, I’m going to share with you some of the research I did when I started looking into universities to help you with your own decision making.

League tables

A good starting point when it comes to choosing a uni is checking the league tables. These let you see how different unis rank based on the course you want to do. Bear in mind that you shouldn’t set your heart on a university just because it has a high ranking, as this might not be the best choice for you once you consider other factors. However, league tables are useful for finding the unis which offer your course, letting you go on to do further research into the ones which interest you.

Comparing course content

Now you’ve checked out the league tables, you can start looking into the universities that interest you. Carefully reading through the course summary and module breakdowns on each university website is very important. If the course is right for you and you enjoy what you’re studying, then everything else tends to fall into place.

When I was looking into Theatre courses, I knew that I wanted there to be a lot of practical work and performance on offer, which made narrowing down my choices easier. What are your course essentials? Writing a list that you can tick off as you check out each uni is a good way of narrowing down your choices.

What else is essential?

Another way to narrow down your choices is to consider your uni essentials outside of your course. For instance, when I was doing my research I knew that I didn’t want to move too far from home, so I only looked into universities in the North West. Is location important to you too? How about accommodation?

You’ll need to think about whether you’re better suited to a city or campus environment, and how much you want to spend on accommodation. Are socialising and nightlife something you prioritise? Asking yourself these questions and writing down the things that are important to you about university life will aid your decision making.

Open days

Actually being in the environment that you’ll be surrounding yourself with for the next three or more years will help you make an informed decision. Going to an open day gives you a real feel for a uni and a greater idea of if it’s for you. This is your chance to ask questions, get to know the place, and see if you can picture yourself living/studying here. Universities run numerous open days throughout the year so if you’ve missed one, don’t worry, there will be another one coming up soon! I’d also recommend having a look around the local area once you’ve finished with the university site, as this will give you a sense of the amenities close at hand and make you feel more at home if you do choose to study there.

Whilst you can't visit universities at the moment, I'd recommend checking out their YouTube channels and social media to get an idea of what the university and city are like, many have virtual tours and online events you can look at. This should help you narrow down your choices so you can register to visit those on your shortlist before you apply. You could also search for student vloggers from the universities you've shortlisted to get a closer and more personal look into student life, and insight or information that might not be on the official sites. I also found that experiencing uni life through vloggers left me feeling more prepared, reassured and excited about starting university.

The Student Room

When I’d narrowed down my choices, I started looking for answers and advice online. I found that this often led me to The Student Room, where questions similar to mine had already been answered by current undergraduates from Lancaster and the other unis I was considering at the time. Two of our Digital Content Ambassadors, Charlotte and Maria, currently answer FAQs on The Student Room if you have any questions about Lancaster in particular.

Final words

Deciding on the university you want to go to can be difficult, but I hope that my tips will make the process easier! The most important thing is to try not to worry and overthink it. From personal experience, if you do your research and follow your gut instincts, you can’t go wrong.