Five choices, five offers. Chuffed to bits with your firm choice, equally as happy with your insurance. That's what every student wants and that's what you'll get if you make well-research and realistic choices.

Here are the five things you need to do:

1. Decide where you want to live



Do you want to live at home and commute to uni or do you want to move away? If you'd like to move away to uni how far do you want to be away from home? Once you've decided this you can start drawing up a list of unis in your chosen radius. By doing this you've already narrowed your search which will make your research and shortlisting a lot easier.

2. Start reading university prospectuses online


Talk about your choices with your best friends

If you like what you see, you can always order one from the university website. Or check out your school's or college's resources, they're very likely to have a few that you can browse while you start to get a feel for what you like and what you're interested in.

If you've already been to a UCAS fair and have two bags full of the things, make sure you dust them off and start browsing, this the perfect place to start.


Questions to ask yourself

When you're reading it's super helpful to start making notes about what is getting you excited about particular courses, universities or cities. Make sure you write this down as you, it will make long-listing your initial choices a dream!

  • Do you want a campus, semi-campus, or non-campus university?
  • Do you want to live in a big city or a smaller town?
  • How far away do you want to be from home?
  • How affordable is the cost of living in that city or region?
  • Is there a particular place in the country you want or need to be located?
  • Are there particular facilities you want or need - sports facilities, access to London etc
  • If you go to a low-achieving school, you may be eligible for some sort of 'entry scheme' that accepts lower grades. Check with your school or email your preferred universities to check the procedure.


3. Checking course descriptions and entry requirements



Read the course descriptions carefully. No two university courses are exactly the same, even for the same subject. Remember to look at other courses on offer that might appeal to you - especially anything with an unfamiliar title.

Also consider whether you interested in a sandwich course or a course which includes a year abroad? These are viewed favourably by most employers so if your future employability and salary expectations are big influences on your uni choice it's worth checking out these kinds of courses.

Make sure you research helps you to work out which unis offer a particular subject and where you could apply with your predicted grades. Check the entry requirements carefully. If the uni are asking for a specific subject at A2 or a specific grade at GCSE, do you have that? If you don't there is very little point in applying because it is likely to end with a rejection from the uni.

Be realistic about your predicted grades - don't apply to unis which have entry grades which are two above your predicted. Getting an offer is the easy part in comparison to reaching the grades to get your offer come results day.

How to make your university long-list

  • Those with requirements just above your predicted grades
  • Those at your predicted grades
  • Those below your predicted grades


Find your perfect uni in 60 seconds

4. Visiting open days


Students in a lecture theatre

Open days are a must. If you are considering applying to a uni that you think is a serious contender for a space in your top five make sure you book an open day.

If the cost of travelling round the country worries you, do what you can to make it cheaper. Invest in a young person's railcard and book your travel in advance or ask at college if anyone else is planning to go to the same open day - a lift share could be a great option.

Open days are one of the best ways to help you decide whether you actually want to apply to that uni - getting a feel for the facilities on offer, meet the staff, get a peek at the accommodation and a quick glimpse of the city - you're potential new home for the next three years. Ask yourself can I see yourself living there?

Questions you might want to at ask about a course on uni open day

  • How is the course assessed?
  • How is the course taught?
  • How much contact time will there be?
  • What optional modules will I have the opportunity to chose
  • How much self-study is required for the course?
  • Will the course change or develop during my time at uni?


For more questions check out our guide here


5. Shortlisting and making realistic choices


Make sure all your choices meet your personal criteria
The one thing you mustn't do when shortlisting your final five is picking five courses with identical or very close grade requirements. If you do this you will have obvious choice for your insurance university which should have a lower grade offer than your firm.

Make sure all of the universities you chose are places that you actually want to study at and would be happy to live there. Don't choose a university just to fill up a choice - you don't need to make five choices if you only like four universities.

How to shortlist


Ideally you'll have:
  • One 'risky' choice (above your predicted grades)
  • Two or three choices at your predicted grades
  • One or two choices well below your predicted grades.




Applying to uni help

Making your firm and insurance choices

Understanding conditional offers

Changing your mind about your firm or insurance choice

Writing an excellent personal statement in 10 easy steps

Create your Personal Statement with our brilliant builder tool

Everything you need to know about applying to uni