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Research advice – finding the right university

​​​​​Once you’ve made the decision about what course you’d like to study at university (which in itself can be challenging!), you’ve then got to decide where to study it. Here are a few tips which helped me decide and go on to have the best four years of my life.

Exploring all your options is key

Do your research – the more you know about each university, the better.

There is so much information on the internet so I started my search on the UCAS website. This is a great place to look through all the universities that offer your chosen course, entry requirements and how to apply, alongside general information such as student finance and career options.  

From there I looked on university webpages, giving me more detailed information about the course structure, course modules (different subject areas within the course) and opportunities available to students. Different people learn best in different ways, so check out whether the course is more practical, more exam-based or a mixture of both – for me I knew I preferred a mixture of exams and practical work! It can be a good idea to check out what different research areas the university focuses on too, as there might be opportunities to assist in current research projects – whilst at university I was given the chance to assist a PhD student with her research looking into the biodiversity of reed beds.  

Next up, I took some time to look at university league tables which rank universities and course areas based on a number of different factors. For example, student satisfaction with course, teaching and student to staff ratio and some of the scores are based on the National Student Survey [NSS] which is completed by final-year students.

Choosing a university shouldn’t only be based on the course though, it is important to think about other elements of university life too. You could create yourself a ‘university checklist’ – I created mine on a spreadsheet but tables or lists work too – containing all the factors that are important to you, such as university location, reputation, support services available, facilities and extracurricular activities (sports, societies and volunteering).

Get to open days

I really couldn’t recommend attending open days enough – I went to about 5 myself! Whether this be in person or virtually, open days allow you to snoop around the place and look at the university’s different facilities such as the libraries, teaching spaces and student accommodation. They are also an excellent way of getting a real feel for the place and decide whether you think it is somewhere you can see yourself studying for the next 3 years or more. Lots of universities, including the University of Gloucestershire, offer virtual tours of their campuses and accommodation on their websites if tours in person aren’t possible.

Speaking with current students is also super useful, as these are the best people to give you an insight into student life and what it’s really like studying that course. This can be done in person or digitally and many universities, including the University of Gloucestershire use online platforms where you can easily chat with current students and members of university staff.

Don’t follow the crowd

But really the most important piece of advice I can give you when deciding where to study, is to make it your own decision. It might be tempting to follow what your friends are doing and where they decide to go or even solely base your decision on other people’s opinions. But at the end of the day, this is your journey and your career pathway so it is super important to be true to yourself and consider what is best for you.

For me, choosing a university was not an easy process but by exploring the internet, creating a colour coded spreadsheet and chatting with some very enthusiastic lecturers I made a decision that was right for me.