University Choice - How to Make your Decision
So you've chosen to go to University. A place of study, ambition, independence and alcohol. The decision of which University to go to is one that's going to affect the rest of your life, so it's vital you make an informed decision after asking yourself the correct questions. After all, realising you're a home bird after moving 8 hours north to Aberdeen is not a great situation for any student! Thankfully, there's so much information out there that can help you make your decision. Lets take a look at the key questions you should ask yourself before settling on a University choice.
Location - Where should I go to Uni?
Location should be the first question you ask. This can be split down into two parts:
- Do I want to live in a city or outside a city? For some, city living is the perfect way of life and may be something very different from what we've previously experienced. If you're think about choosing a university in a city, make sure you visit a few times before confirming your choice to ensure you've got a good measure of the atmosphere. If London is too intense for you, Universities in Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow among also offer inner city lifestyle. For those who prefer being outside of the city, there are numerous campus universities spread across the country. Some to consider may be Lancaster, Keele or Edge Hill.
- How far from home do I want to live? This is something that I'd recommend thinking about very careful. It's easy to see the draw of gaining independence and living miles away from home, but this can cause issues when you move away. Think getting to and from Uni, move your belongings, costs of travel, and other similar issues (think getting your mum to do your washing....). Of course don't let this stop you from moving to the University of your dreams, it's just something to consider. For others, consider whether you want to move out or live at home. While living at home offers monetary benefits, the independence you gain at University can be really beneficial and the connections you make with friends can last a lifetime.
Rankings - What Should I Consider?
The University League Tables published every year give an indication, based on a number of factors, of the quality of the degree you will receive from the institution, and this can come into play when searching for future employment. However, between the mid-ranking Universities, league table positioning is not going to have a major effect on your future career. It is really the top 3/4 Universities that are set apart from the rest, and within this category Oxford and Cambridge are seen as the elite.
Before considering apply to these Universities, consider going having a look round - from personal experience I can tell you that Cambridge was a poor fit for me and that I would not have felt at home there! If you feel you can deal with the rigorous application process and the slightly different student lifestyle then take on the challenge, degrees from either University will open a vast amount of doors for you in later life! Just be sure to consider whether these Universities are where you want to spend your life before you take the plunge.
Lifestyle - What Student Lifestyle do I want?
This is an interesting question, and it may be worth attempting to speak to students already attending the universities you're looking at to get a greater insight of what life is like. Again there are a number of questions and points within this category that you may want to consider:
- Cost of living in London will be far more expensive. Consider your sources of finance - how far does your student loan stretch? Will you be able to get a part time job? Will your family be willing to contribute to your running costs? (admittedly I make you sound like a car). Also consider finding a house after year one - what is the rent going to be like in the local area?
- Colleges and halls - At many Universities different "halls" or groups of flats will have different cultures. You might want to consider, once you've picked your University, whether you want a more laid back atmosphere or the more stereotypical partying student life. You may be happy to wake up at 2pm, eat some cold beans and crack open a beer for the next night - and if that's what makes you happy that's fine, enjoy it! But you probably won't be the most popular person if your flatmates prefer a night in with a book or a DVD. Chances are you won't be too happy either. There will be people like you at university, but it doesn't hurt to try and find accommodation where you and your flatmates will be happiest.
- Catered/Self-Catered. Are you the next Masterchef? Or do you set the toaster on fire on a regular basis? This is something you might want to consider before selecting a University and then halls. For those of us who enjoy cooking, a meal plan can be very frustrating and can take away the independence you've been seeking. For those who don't have any interest in cooking, having to make every meal yourself can be repetitive, time consuming and expensive. You're going to want to stay fit and healthy at University (being deathly ill and hours away from home is not fun) and fuelling your body with the right food is essential for this.
Going to University is something that can and will change your life, both in terms of the qualifications you'll gain and the connections you'll make. It's a great stepping stone between living at home and getting your own place. To make the most of your time at University it's essential you take the time to consider which Universities are offering what you want, and then focusing on getting there. Good luck with your choice of University and I hope this article has been of use!
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