We all know that anyone could tell you to go online and find the accreditations of the universities you’re interested in. Maybe you are reading up on their statistics, national rankings, and even studying the student/staff reviews etc. Although that’s a great starting point for choosing a university, my aim is to help you decide what you personally want out of a university, and hopefully, you’ll be able to learn something from my experience. So, in no particular order, here are some things worth considering as you tirelessly hunt down universities…
For me, the distance from my home-town, more specifically my family, was something very high on the list of things to consider. I am so close to my family, and I wanted to easily visit them as often as I’d like without it being too expensive. I also knew that I wanted to use university as a chance to experience what living away from family would be like, I wanted to feel more independent. Luckily, the University of York is the perfect middle-ground for me.
The campus environment/ university grounds
This is where you must decide what you want from a university campus. What ‘vibe’ are you looking for? To be honest, I didn’t know what type of campus was ideal for me until I visited York, nothing’s felt better. I remember visiting on an open day and falling in love with how York manages to amalgamate such modern infrastructure with wonderful nature so beautifully. I never realised how much I’d appreciate the presence of serene pools of water, invading geese and adorable bunnies until I started studying here. Spontaneous walks have never been more therapeutic!
The content covered
Of course, you go to university to grow, have fun, form long-lasting friendships, and make even longer-lasting memories. It’s important to realise that ultimately, the purpose of attending university is to achieve an education, to study something and to do reasonably well at it. I think that at this point in our lives, we can all appreciate that there is a relationship between loving what you’re studying/genuinely enjoying the subject content and doing well at it. This principle should also be considered when you are looking around at universities. I’d advise you to go on their websites and look up the course you want to study. You can then see if the syllabus interests you.
How the course is taught
Equally as important as the previous point is how the subject content is delivered to you, the student. Do they use more than one method of teaching? If they do, find out what they are, and see if it complements how you learn best. Do they run workshops, seminars or tutorials to help you digest the material? Taster sessions held during open days or visit days are great for helping you figure this out for yourself. Attending a university that teaches you the way you will understand will naturally make you much more eager to learn, and thus make those 9am lectures a lot harder to skip. Trust me.
The local surroundings
It is SO important you get a feel of the town or city your university is in. Consider the type of area you would like to live in, the type of community you’d like to live with. Are you looking for a more quiet, small town, or would you prefer a more industrial, lively and diverse city? When I was searching for my ideal university, I wanted a city that wasn’t too busy and fast-paced, because, in my eyes, that would create a more overwhelming environment, but I still wanted it to be more lively than my home town. I was happy to discover that York fits that description perfectly. It is quite small for a city so it has a warming, cosy feel, however, it is also a city with a little buzz. There is also always something to do.
It’s also important to think about what you would like to have access to when choosing a university. One of the things I was thrilled to discover was that York has so many little restaurants and cafés. Being the ‘foodie’ I am, this was a big pro for me.
Access to opportunities through the University
I feel like students often forget to consider this important point when choosing a university. What are your personal interests, both academic and non-academic? Does the university offer anything that could help you develop these further? For example, if you enjoy travelling, does your university offer semesters or years abroad? If you have a passion for dance, check to see if the university has some dance societies. If work experience is a priority for you check to see if your course offers placements, internships or a year in industry. These are all valuable things that can really enrich your university experience.
And a bonus tip!
In case I haven’t made it clear enough…visit some open days! This was so influential in me going to York. Think about it, you can’t get a true sense of a place without visiting it. Pictures online can only do so much. Another advantage of open days is that you can meet the staff that would be teaching your course and get a little taste of what they’re like. Open days also give you the chance to take time to discover the place you could soon be calling home.
Please remember that choosing a university is personal, you might not love the same university as your friend. As long as you decide on the university that meets all your personal requirements, you will find happiness there.