How to Choose a University: 7 Things to Consider

17th September 2021 Shannan Humphrey Study

Choosing to go to university is a huge decision. The hardest part is choosing which university to apply for and even go to. With so many choices to choose from, from a wide range of courses to study, to different cities and campuses, there is a lot to think about and it can be overwhelming.

In this guide, we will go through 7 things that you should consider when choosing a university. They aren’t in any specific order. The importance should depend on your own priorities, but these tips should help you decide which university is best for you.

1. Your Subject

Choosing your degree subject should be the most important thing you consider as it can shape your career. You want to make sure it is the right one so you’ll enjoy your time at university. After all, you will be spending the next 3-6 years studying your chosen course, depending on your degree. UCAS, TheUniGuide, or WhatUni are all great tools to find out which subject you want to study. You can find out what courses there are, what career paths you can take with them, and even what universities offer that course.

Once you’ve chosen your subject you can narrow down your potential universities by seeing which schools offer this course, and which universities have a strong reputation in your chosen field. You can use league tables, such as The Complete University Guide, to find the best universities for your subject.

When you narrow it down, you can also check the course content and what modules you will be taking on the university’s websites. Knowing what your course offers will help you narrow down your choices further as not all universities offer the same modules. With this information, you can choose your course based on content preferences.

If you need help choosing, take a look at our helpful tips on how to choose your degree subject.

2. The Location

The location is also an important thing to consider when choosing a university. Think about the distance away from home and if you want to explore universities in or near your hometown or a long-distance away. Make sure you explore the advantages and disadvantages of both. You should also think about if you would prefer studying and living in a big city or a quieter rural area. Choosing a university in a location that appeals to you will add to your university experience and you’ll be more inclined to make the most of your surroundings. Finally, consider the local areas, what there is to do, how close things are, and the transportation connections around.


3. University Rankings

Looking at university rankings and league tables is very helpful in helping you find the right university. They are updated yearly and show how well all the universities in the UK are performing in general and by subject. University league tables, like The Complete University Guide, or The Guardian, use many metrics to compare graduate prospects, student satisfaction, student-to-staff ratio, even entry requirements. You can really dive into them and research how universities rank.

4. Entry Requirements

When choosing which university you should go to, you should look at the entry requirements. Not all courses have the same entry requirements. Look at what marks you may need to get into different universities and be realistic depending on your predicted grades. Consider choosing a couple of universities with lower entry-level requirements just to be safe. The entry requirements can be found on league tables, UCAS, or the universities website. Most universities list UCAS Tariff points for their entry requirement, which translates your qualifications and grades into a numerical value, to learn more and calculate how many tariff points you have, look at UCAS’ Entry Requirements.

5. The Social Scene

As well as education, the social aspects of the university should be taken into consideration when choosing which one to go to. Looking at what the universities student life is like is important. You can see what they offer in terms of activities at their Students Union. You should search what kind of events they put on and what sports and societies your university offers. If you have a hobby or interest that you want to continue, or start, while at university, or meet like-minded people, these are perfect for you. You can also look into what the nightlife on campus and in the community is like.

The Student Room and WhatUni are both helpful in finding out what student life is like at your chosen university. You can read discussion forums and reviews left by current students and graduates. Or get a feel for the social scene for yourself and take advantage of open days, which will also give you a feel of the campus in person.

 6. The Facilities

Another important thing when choosing a university is to consider the facilities the university offers. For example, you’ll be spending a decent amount of time in the library so be acquainted with it. Make sure you find out what they offer, how much space there is, how many books, and if you are a night owl check if they have a 24/7 area and café. Look at what other things the campus may offer including study areas, shops, cafés, and accommodation. You can also research your course and see what facilities your department has for labs, projects, or research purposes. You can find these on your university’s website. But, open days are the best way to get a feel for the campus facilities and the best way to ask questions.

 7. Graduate Employability

Looking at graduate employability is another important consideration. This is the percentage of students who are employed full-time within a year after graduation. So, it is important to look for a university with a high graduate prospect. You can find these on UCAS, or league tables to see the overall graduate prospects of a university.

All these points should help you find which university is best for you. The top things to remember when choosing a university are your course and the content, the universities reputation, and the overall student experience. Research, league tables, and order prospects from your university that will help you. After all, you’ll want to work hard and play hard, read our article on What to Expect from Your First Year at University for more information.

Now you’ve chosen which university to go to, what about choosing what to study? Since that is the most important thing to consider when choosing your university, it can be a hard decision. So let’s explore that below.

How to Choose a University Course

While choosing a university is a difficult choice, choosing your subject is even harder. Especially if you are struggling to know what career path you want to take, but don’t worry if this is you, as this is a common worry.

But, we’ve put together some further tips for you to help narrow down degrees, so you not only can find the right university but the right course as well.

1. Consider your interests, values and abilities

There are a lot of different types of courses on offer, so narrowing them down by your interests, values and abilities is a good start. When questioning what to study at university, think about the things you are truly passionate about. An example would be that you are passionate about the environment, so you decide to undertake a conservation degree.

Don’t forget to also take your abilities into account. Chances are, if you weren’t very good at something during your A-Levels, you’ll find it even harder at university. Apply to university degrees that make use of your strengths and align with what you believe in. Remember, you’re going to be studying towards your degree for years, so it needs to be something you’re actually interested in.

2. Think about a joint honours

A lot of students miss out on the benefits of a joint honours course because they mistakenly think it means doing twice the work. The truth is a joint honours degree involves the same number of credits as a single honours course. The only difference is that you’ll be studying fewer modules in each subject.

You’ll be able to apply for a joint honours degree while studying your A-levels or equivalent. You can basically choose two subjects to study, rather than just one. Which has a lot of benefits, you get to be get a degree in two subjects and learn to master them both. And if you aren’t sure what career path you may want to take, a joint degree allows you to open doors for both subjects.

It’s also good to note here that the two subjects don’t have to be related. You can also choose to study them as a joint degree or study one as a major and one as a minor. There is a lot of choices available with this type of degree so it’s definitely something to consider.

3. Look at employability prospects

While choosing an undergraduate course that you are interested in is important, you also need to consider employability prospects. What are the chances of you finding a job with the degree you’ll be studying? You can check the following websites to assess employability prospects before choosing a university course:

The last thing you need is to complete your degree, only to find there are no employment opportunities available. However, don’t be too disheartened if opportunities in your chosen sector are low right now. The situation could change, so factor in future trends and opportunities too.

4. Consider the type of course

When choosing what to study in university, an important thing to think about is the type of course best suited to you. Let’s take a look at your options:

  • Foundation degrees – A foundation degree can be completed on a full or part-time basis. They are focused on a particular profession and combine the workplace with academic skills. If you aren’t sure whether a full degree is right for you, a foundation degree could be an ideal option. They typically take two years to complete on a full-time basis.
  • Part-time study – Part-time courses basically extend the amount of time it will take to complete the degree. You will attend the course for fewer hours each week than you would if you were studying full time. Most part-time degrees take six years to complete. These courses are ideal for those who wish to work as well as attend university.
  • Distance learning – Some courses are offered on a distance learning basis. This means you don’t need to physically attend the university. Instead, you’ll be taught online. You will need to travel to complete any exams you need to take. However, most of the course is done over the internet. This is great for students who can’t travel to their chosen university, and for those who prefer more flexibility.
  • A placement year – You can select courses at a university that offer a placement year in a workplace setting. This gives you valuable work experience you can use when it is time to search for a job. Courses that do include a placement year, usually involve extending the degree course by a year. This means you’ll graduate later than some of your peers.
  • The option to study abroad – Some courses enable you to split your studying between home and abroad. A year studying abroad can be attractive to those looking to travel and experience new cultures.

5. Look at course guides and league tables

Other things you’ll want to look into are course guides and league tables. Pay attention to how the course will be structured. What do other students have to say about the course in their testimonials? You need to be sure it’s the right fit for you. University league tables can also help you to see which uni is better for each subject based on rankings.

6. Visit the universities

Visiting the university you are interested in will help you get a feel for whether you’ll like it there. Most universities have open days; however, you can also contact the uni to see if you can arrange a visit. Knowing the environment you will be studying in will be helpful to you, what is the library like? Do they have all the equipment you may want for your subject?

7. Check the prerequisites

The final thing to look out for when trying to choose what university to attend is the prerequisites. That is, what does each university ask for you to be eligible to apply? It’s important to ensure you meet eligibility criteria. Only apply for the courses you think you will get accepted on.

Considering these tips will hopefully help you choose not only the best university for you but also the best course to study. Both are big decisions to make, but if you consider your interests and options and do plenty of research,  it will be easy to find the right choice for you. If you are studying at University in London, consider checking out our student accommodation.


Shannan Humphrey

Shannan Humphrey

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