Sponsored feature, words by Russ Thorne

Going to university is a life changing experience, whatever you study and wherever you go. But that doesn't mean you should throw a dart at Google and pick the first thing it hits. It's worth thinking about the course, naturally, but also the student experience and how the uni you choose will help you prepare for life and work after graduation.

It's a big decision (put those darts down), so we teamed up with staff and students at Bucks New University to give you a few things to bear in mind when you're investigating your options.

What's the student life like?

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The people you meet and the type of uni you choose – city centre, campus and so on – will affect the kind of social and domestic student life you have. But different unis do different things to help the process and it's worth making sure your choice puts students first.

At Bucks New University, for example, new students are offered a 'Big Deal' package. It means free events and entertainment, sports and recreational activities and contact with student reps who look out for their interests. Combined with state-of-the-art facilities, free transport between campuses and a support package worth over £300, it adds up to a helpful programme

Is the course accredited?

Not every course needs professional accreditation and traditional programmes such as history and English remain vital, valid options. But if you're thinking of heading down a more career-focused route, it's helpful to consider an accredited course.

“Employers often look for degrees that are professionally accredited,” says Anne Whitehouse, Head of Marketing at Bucks New University. “For example, our BA (Hons) in Public Relations and Marketing Communications is accredited by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA).”

Why does this matter? “It provides employers with the reassurance that the degree is relevant,” says Anne, “and students know that they will be learning the skills required by future employers.”

Who is the uni friends with?

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Sometimes who you know really is as important as what you know, and the rule applies to universities as much as anywhere else. Pick a progressive university with links to industry and you'll leave ready to start work.

At Bucks, partnerships with cutting edge tech firms like Sennheiser mean that music management and production students have access to experienced professionals and state of the art equipment as well as scholarship and internship opportunities.

These industry links are incredibly helpful, says grad Gemma Robinson (BA (Hons) Music Management and Artist Development), now a Channel Marketing Executive at Sennheiser. “All the lecturers either currently work or have worked in the industry and have strong networks, to help you gain experience.”

What about once you leave?

Making useful connections while you're a student is one way to make sure you have a network of people to support you once you graduate. It's also good to know if your chosen uni will offer help and advice to its graduates beyond their time as students.

At Bucks, initiatives including Enterprise Bucks help current students forge those connections, while graduates can access the careers service and advisers for two years after they leave.

It's reassuring to know, says Christian Archer, graduate of the BSc (Hons) Air Transport Management with Commercial Pilot Training course and now a Flight Instructor. “Even now, I can still go back to Bucks and I know they'll put me in contact with the right people.”

What other skills will I develop?

Student life itself is a good teacher, but many unis also help students prepare for work by getting involved beyond the lecture hall, developing transferable skills and confidence along the way.

Speaking to alumni like Louis Brown is a good way of finding out what else a uni can do for you. He's a graduate of the Bucks BA (Hons) Music Management and Artist Development course and now works for Island Records. “The time I spent at Bucks has given me confidence,” he says. “I was encouraged to go to conferences, network and immerse myself in the music world.”

Think about all these areas and you'll be well on the way to making the right choice. Then once you arrive, embrace the opportunities that arise. “Don’t be scared, even if you feel you don’t have any
experience or knowledge,” says Louis. “You have to throw yourself in and make it happen.”

Find out more about Bucks New University here.