Izzy, a final year uni student, recently ran our first ever Instagram live for us – an Ask Me Anything about university life. She roped in friends who were studying or had studied at different colleges for different perspectives too. There was a little hiccup when Instagram went offline halfway through (poor Iz!) so that she had to do it in two parts, but a lot of really good questions were asked and answered.
Several of these were about choosing a uni. Not surprising, as most uni offers have been received now and firm and insurance choices are being made. The UCAS deadline for accepting offers is 10 June this year, so there’s still time, but we know that it’s top of mind for a lot of Year 13s. Especially because, due to Covid, it hasn’t been possible to visit universities and have a look round. Virtual open days – and now offer days – are helpful but only up to a point.
So what did Izzy and her friends have to say about choosing your place?
Is it important to have looked around the uni before accepting a place there?
It’s certainly not essential. “Most people go to the open days and have a look around but I couldn’t do that so decided to just rock up on day one and see how it went. And I loved it.” It’s a good idea to go if you can, to get a feel, but it’s really not the end of the world if you can’t make it. You can get a really good idea from the online information. It’s much more important to ask people who go there what it’s like. Track down anyone you can who’s already there – older siblings of your friends, pupils in years above you, friends of friends – and bombard them with questions.
Should accommodation be a major factor?
Lots of students think an ensuite room in first year is make or break for them, and that universities with plenty of newer and smarter accommodation are better. And that’s totally understandable before you get there. Once you do, though, you realise that if you don’t have an ensuite there are always masses of facilities to share and it’s not a problem. Plus it’s cheaper and gives you more going out money! Again, it’s better to do as much research as possible before you go and apply for the halls with the best feel for you – most social or on the quieter side, location (central and close to the SU or a bit further away, giving you a little distance) etc.
Self-catering or catered?
There are advantages to both and everyone advocates for the option that they chose!
While the food isn’t always the best in catered halls, you have the advantage of eating with other students and meeting a whole new set of people. “You get to sit next to anyone from 200 people in your hall, over and over again, and it does help to make friends.”
If eating exactly what you want, when you want, is important to you, then self-catered will obviously be better.
Bear in mind that you will usually have to be cooking for yourself after the first year, though…
Should you choose a uni close to home if you’re feeling apprehensive?
Take the risk! “I came to London from Australia to study and felt very apprehensive! My thought was, I will stay six months and if it doesn’t work out, I will try somewhere else next year.” By the time the novelty has worn off and you might start feeling a little homesick (usually somewhere in the second term), you will already have a network of friends there to support you.
How can you be sure you’ve chosen the right course?
You can’t! The great thing about uni though is that you usually have the option to specialise within your course in what interests you. You can also often take modules from other subjects, “I study anthropology and I’ve taken modules from philosophy, psychology and politics.” And in the worse case scenario, you can switch courses midway through. Many people change course – radically, sometimes – after finding out in the first year that they’ve made a mistake. If you love the subject, you should be okay, even if there’s the odd module you don’t like. If you’re feeling a little unsure, though, it’s a very good idea to check the university’s policy on switching courses before you accept a place.
We hope you’ve found this advice from students on choosing a university place useful. You can watch Izzy’s live – Part 1 and Part 2 – here. If you’ve got a question that you’d like answered (in confidence) by a uni student, just drop us an email; we’d love to hear from you.
And if you’d like more insight on uni life, you might want to check out our guest blog post written by a recent graduate and if you’re thinking about taking a gap year, we’ve got a student’s personal view on that too.
Good luck with your choice!
Louise & Anna x