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Navigating University Choices: A Guide to Finding Your Ideal Fit

Sitting down to think about your UCAS University choices can lead to a real headache of choices; with over 160 UK universities to choose from, how are you ever going to narrow down the list to a manageable size? Each person is different in this regard, and nobody but you can pick what you should study or where you should go. We’ve been there before, and we’re here to give you our top tips on selecting the right university for you…

Included in this article:

  1. Which university offers the best course?

  2. Where do you want to live?

  3. Are you looking for a university with a certain reputation? 

  4. Is there anything else you need provided for?

  5. Does the university offer any additional funding or scholarships?



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Which universities offer the best course?

Some might consider this to be the most important question (since university is about education, after all); where is going to fulfil your education needs the best. Even though you may have settled on just one subject out of the many you may study at school, this doesn’t mean that the course choices are over! Different universities may offer different individual course or modules within that subject course, or may offer slightly different degree courses underneath the same banner subject name, which you will need to choose between.

Even though other factors in your decision might seem more exciting or fun to research, we recommend that you really think about where is going to teach you what you want to know and give you the best bang for your buck education-wise. Head to the course page on the university websites that you’re interested in to compare their contents in detail and make sure you know what contents you’re getting into before picking your future university!

Where do you want to live?

This is another crucial question, and applies to several aspects of the universities you’ll be deciding between. First of all, how far from home are you willing to move? For some people, they want to stay a manageable distance from their existing friends and family, whereas for others they cannot wait to travel halfway across the country to embark on the new challenge that is university! This is a personal decision and there is no right or wrong, so have a think about those long train journeys or drives up the motorway and take perhaps it into consideration when looking at universities.

Secondly, do you like the towns, cities, or campuses of the universities in question? Whilst university life is somewhat different from moving to a town as a working professional or living there with family, you’re still going to be living in and using the amenities of the wider area into which you are moving. Do you want to be in a big bustling city? Would you rather live in the rolling hills of the countryside? Again, these are questions you are needing to ask yourself.

Lastly, weigh up whether you’d like to go to a campus or a city university. Campus universities are unis built all together, almost like a mini town of their own, whilst city universities have their departments spread throughout a town or city. There are pros and cons to both, with campus universities often being more convenient and easier to meet up with friends, but sometimes also more of a ‘bubble’ and separated from real life, as it were.

Are you looking for a university with a certain reputation?

Don’t misread this - we’re not suggesting looking through which university likes to party the most and running straight for that one - what we mean here is that different universities might boast different USPs or angles that make you more interested in them. For example, are you looking for a university prized for its academic prowess? Are you looking for a university known for its successful sports teams? Are you looking for a smaller or larger student body or campus size?

These are all aspects worth considering in a university. Consulting higher education guides or ranking tables (such as the Times Higher Education guide) can be useful when thinking about ideas such as this, or reading reviews from former students, although again bear in mind that attending university is a very personal experience and can be quite difficult to quantify in numbers or extrapolate from just one person’s experience! Certain monikers (such as the Russell Group) can also give you a good indication of the type of university you are looking at (although this particular group is more angled at academic attainment than student experience).

This is the category on which a lot of people consider Oxford and Cambridge (given that they are widely renowned to be two of the best performing and most historic universities in the world). If either university is high up on your list (and bear in mind that you can only apply to one of the two) it’s worth thinking not just about how the uni would suit you, but also what your chances of getting in might be. Head over to our blog to find out more about your odds of getting accepted into Oxbridge.

Is there anything else you need provided for?

Whilst studying is going to be the main thing you do at university, there’s also other activities or facilities that you might want provided for you. For example, if you’re a keen rower or basketball player, then you might want to look at which of the universities on your shortlist have good sports facilities or a championship-winning rowing or basketball team. Similarly, if you’re a keen musician, then have a look at if your university or college has music rooms, recording equipment, or organised bands/choirs/orchestras that you could consider joining. Although it makes the decision more complicated, it’s always worth looking into aspects such as these when deciding between institutions that might otherwise be very similar.

You might also want to look into the provisions and infrastructure at certain universities if you think you are going to need or are entitled to specialist support, be this academic or otherwise.


Does the university offer any additional funding or scholarships?

Although at an undergraduate level all courses cost the same money (unless you are Scottish, Northern Irish, or Welsh and studying in your home country, for which there can be some financial permutations) some institutions might offer extra incentives for students with certain skills (such as sports or music scholarships) or in a disadvantaged financial situation. This could be partial or full scholarships, or just a fund set up to help students purchase the requisite textbooks or extracurricular equipment (every little helps!). Have a look at the funding part of the university’s website or get in touch with the institution for specific details on how to apply for certain scholarship or funding avenues. If you’re looking at Oxford or Cambridge and are nervous about the expense attached, see our blog on Oxbridge tuition fees for more details on what it might cost and potential funding options. 

In short, there are lots of different aspects of the university experience that will affect how you feel about one university over another - and in every case this is a person decision. Whilst not us, or anyone else, can tell you the correct choice, we hope that this article will help you make the best decision for you in the end!



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