Friday, 30 January 2015

Picking the right university for you - a beginner's tips

I am not at university, therefore I cannot guarantee that my advice is 100% accurate and should be followed to the letter. However, it is that time of the year for school leavers across the country where we have to decide our fate and basically determine how the rest of our life is going to pan out. I am sure a lot of you are in the same boat, or have been before. Deadline day (aka D-Day) has now passed - it was the 15th of January or something round about that for applications to Scottish universities, and possibly England too but I'm not sure about that - and now everyone has to play the waiting game as the fate of a significant proportion of the population lies in the hands of admissions offices across the country.

I am incredibly lucky for I have already heard back from all five of the universities I applied to, and have known about my offers since before D-Day (I'm in demand, I know). For many people though, it could be weeks, even months, before responses come through. I now just have the hard choice of which university to attend. Easy peasy, right? Not like it could affect the rest of my life or anything. Pffft. 

A girl recently told me that to pick the right university for you, all that needs to be done is listen to your heart. She made it sound so easy with one simple way of knowing - pick the one which you were most excited about when the offer came in. It took me all of 0.35 seconds (roughly...) to come up with the answer. Probably the one that I cried about for about 2 hours straight after finding out I had got in just TWO DAYS after submitting my application. If that is not obvious, I don't know what is.

I think the mistake that a lot of people make is going somewhere that they feel too comfortable with or that they know someone else is going to. It is going to be a very daunting experience but you have to think about it clearly and logically. Don't attend a university just because your friend is going there too. That is a seriously bad reason for choosing it, no matter how tempting it may be. Chances are, they won't be doing the same course as you anyway so you would hardly see them so why go there if it isn't the best option for you? You also need to think about the reputation of the school. A lot of people say that this shouldn't be a factor when choosing which university to go to, but I think it should be. Here's a little scenario for you. You apply for your dream job in your chosen career. you and another applicant have practically identical applications, with the only difference being where you attended university. The other candidate went to a very prestigious school with really high entry requirements. You went to a good school, but not quite as high up in the list. Who gets the interview/the job? Probably the other person. If it was harder to get into that university and they managed it and also came out the other end with a degree, that makes them look like a better candidate for the position (this is a hypothetical situation obviously, I am not implying you couldn't do it...). Obviously, you don't want to pick a university just because of how it is going to sound on job applications (e.g. University of Glasgow). There is no mistaking that it will look better but that can't be the only reason you are going. It might be fantastic uni but if it doesn't offer the perfect course for you then you need to think of your other options. Your decision should be made on the course first, and then the university's reputation.

If you are not applying till next year, it's never too early to start looking at courses and prospectuses to prepare for the year ahead. If you have an idea of what it is you would like to do, you will be able to attend open days at the university and visit the specific department you are interested in. I did this and the university which I am planning on going to (I think) had a great department with brilliant lecturers so it really did help me with my decision. If you aren't sure yet, think about what you enjoy. Do you love reading? What about English Literature? Animals - animal biology or zoology? Design - fashion or architecture? The list goes on. If you can, ask to speak to your school's career advisor.

So this post ended up being a lot longer than I thought! I had no plan for it, just sat down with my laptop and started typing. Not sure if that is a good or bad thing... Anyway, no matter where I - or you, if you are in the same position right now - choose to go, life will be dramatically different and there is no doubt about that. Any tips on how to ease yourself gently into that process, or how you chose which university to go to? Help a gal out, will ya.

Holly

8 comments

  1. Love this post. Picking a uni can be difficult, I was lucky and like you, knew instantly. But I think it's just about going with your heart. Where you feel you can call home for the next few years. Open days will definitely help you decide where you're more comfortable x

    peepintosklife.blogspot.co.uk

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  2. Thanks! It is easy for some of us, but I think a lot of people really struggle because of how huge a decision it is. I like the point you made, a place that you can call home is exactly what you are looking for x

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  3. great tips, I just picked the closest ones that did the course I wanted, although I did get conditional offers from two Russell Group unis so I'm swaying towards them!

    Alice x
    Sheer Beautiful // Bloglovin'

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  4. Thanks! Where you want to go in terms of distance from home can also be a factor, luckily I'm not that bothered about that as you have to be over an hour away from my town to go to a decent university! x

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  5. These are really good tips thank you so much! I'm still waiting to hear back from one of mine and this really helped! xx
    louleecutie.blogspot.co.uk

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  6. This is all great advice! I wish I had turned to blog posts when I was applying a few years back. And I agree, open days are so helpful when applying. There are some universities that I thought were perfect for me until I went and actually saw them, heh! xx

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  7. I'm glad you find them helpful! Oooh, good luck on the last one! xx

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  8. Thanks!! I know, they can end up being totally different to what you expect. My brother went to an open day of a university a couple of years ago not really wanting to go there and ended up loving it! xx

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