Words by Russ Thorne

If you're a high achieving student, you'll have worked hard to get the kind of grades that will hopefully launch you into a rewarding experience at a top uni. But what makes a 'top' uni for the most academically agile students? Are red bricks, baffling traditions and lots of ivy necessary? Not always – here's what you should look for in a uni to really help you build on your results...

Top teaching quality

Getting the best from you isn't about a uni wheeling out some drill instructors to yell motivational phrases: if you're a high achieving student you need a faculty that's used to teaching, supporting and challenging people like you, while also encouraging you to become an independent learner and critical thinker.

Entry requirements can be a good guide here: Northumbria, for example, is the highest-rated post-92 university for UCAS entry points, with an average of 369 points required for entry in 2015. That means they seek out – and attract – the best students and are set up to help them go even further.

A fine location

Success is partly about the place itself: a good location can lead to a stimulating, varied student life with lots of interesting opportunities for high-achievers and an environment that will support you in working hard and playing hard.

For example, Dominka Cudak just started her second year at Northumbria Uni after nailing her A Levels and getting a place through adjustment. She's definitely enjoying Newcastle life, and being part of a uni that can help her develop. “I’m getting so much support from the staff and tutors and learning all the skills I’m going to need for my career,” she says. “I’ve really enjoyed Northumbria so far. My first year was a blast!”

A sporting life

Sport at uni has many functions, not all of them to do with offering opportunities to get into fancy dress at the drop of a hat (although that's certainly one of the plus points). There's the health aspect, for starters; and the fact that getting involved in a sport of any kind can be a lot of fun and a great way to meet people.

If you've already had some success in sport there's also the chance to see how far you can go and to measure yourself against the rest of the UK, or even the world. Uni teams can mix it with the best, picking up teamwork and leadership skills and learning to perform under pressure as they go. They're all useful qualities in many areas of life, as well as being helpful when it comes to developing the mental resilience and determination to reach your full potential in your studies.

Great library facilities

Alas, uni libraries tend not to boast a Hogwarts-style restricted section full of books with a biting problem (we haven't checked each one personally, so you never know).

Instead, a great uni library can help you build on your academic achievements and stretch yourself even further by providing top facilities, working spaces, WiFi, access to caffeine – and the odd book, of course. Northumbria University's library has more than 1.2 million of them, for example, and was the second highest scoring library in the 2015 Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey.

Financial support

To help the best students get to uni and get on with the business of self-improvement, many unis offer some kind of financial support. If you're worried about costs it's definitely worth investigating, as you might be surprised by what's out there. You can also investigate our Student Finance Zone to find out more about the money side of things.

Northumbria University recognises that finance can be a worry for some students and offers a generous scholarship and bursary scheme. A one-off scholarship worth up to £4,000 is available to high-achieving students based on their UCAS tariff points and bursaries worth up to £3,000 are also available, dependent on household income.”

Business links

Naturally you should focus on your studies and enjoy your student life, but it's also helpful to look to the future. Top employers are going to want to meet top students, and by offering things like connections with business and regular careers advice, a good uni can help you secure work experience, build some professional skills and make useful contacts for your life after graduation. Northumbria has links with more than 560 employers and almost 50 professional bodies – one of the highest rates in the country according to the Sunday Times University Guide 2016 – which probably explains why it’s now ranked 7th in the UK for the number of graduates in professional employment.

A final tip: don't forget to see what your fellow students make of a place. The National Student Survey is a good indicator of what students think of their uni, or you can mine our forums for feedback. Good hunting!

If you’d like to find out more about Northumbria University, why not visit its next Open Day in Newcastle on Saturday 28 November, or visit its pop-up Open Day in Leeds on Wednesday 9 December.