We've all experienced that sinking feeling when we've made the wrong decision. Like the moment the burning smell hits our noses, for example, and we regret setting the toaster dial so high. It's never pleasant.
So imagine getting that feeling as you realise you're at the wrong uni for you. It happens - in fact, according to new research by New College of the Humanities some 40 per cent of first year students regret their choice.
Getting it right
This isn't a reason to roll your eyes in despair. Instead, it's a chance to make sure you don't become one of the students hitting the 'eject' button eight weeks into their course (the point at which most freshers quit, according to NCH). It's all about asking the right questions when you start investigating your uni options, so here are some tips to help you do just that, compiled with help from NCH Director of Admissions, Jane Phelps.
Promotional material and open days
It can be good to start with the big picture by checking out uni websites and prospectuses to get some essential facts and figures. "While they are indeed selling documents, they will give you more detailed information on the institution," says Jane.
Wherever possible, go to the open days of the unis on your shortlist. Yes, check that the bar has working electricity, but also investigate the accommodation and facilities for any activities (like sport or music) that interest you.
"Attending open days gives you a good feel of the atmosphere of the university, and a view of where it is, how easy it is to travel there, how much everything costs," says Jane. It's good to be sociable too. "You should meet the faculty and current students of your chosen course."
Going to open days will also help you get an idea of what studying somewhere will be like. "Attending sample lectures and speaking to academics and current students should tell you more about course options and how many people are in a lecture or seminar group," says Jane. "If you get figures like 400 for the former and 25 for the latter, be aware that’s big!"
Digging into the numbers isn't just for statistics fans. The smaller the student body, the more likely you are to get a meaningful amount of contact time, support and one-on-one sessions with your tutors.
These things can make all the difference, says Hugo Stevensen, who left Trinity College Dublin in his first year to join NCH. “If you come into contact with new ideas as just one student in a lecture hall of five hundred other undergraduates, and your only opportunity to voice an opinion comes as part of a ten-student seminar, unsurprisingly your views and interests get lost."
Hugo much prefers NCH's small student cohort and emphasis on one-to-one tutorials. "The decision to join NCH has allowed me the pleasure of truly enjoying the student experience.”
The real thing
Speaking to current students on open days, via social media or forums like ours can be another way to make sure you pick the right place for you. Ask about the lifestyle, the social life and WiFi code by all means, but dig into the study side too. "Ask them how many essays they complete, and how helpful the marking is," says Jane. "Illegible squiggles on your paper and a lack of guidance will not help you stay motivated and excited about your learning."
If you do end up thinking that you may have made the wrong choice, all is not lost. Your first port of call should be your student support service to talk through your options, and there's plenty of advice right here on , The Student Room of course.
You might want to investigate institutions like, NCH too. As they're independent of UCAS you can apply to them directly and transfer, as Hugo did. "If students don’t feel they’re deriving value from their time at university because their classes are too large, they aren’t getting enough contact time with lecturers or because they aren’t being challenged by the syllabus, they have the option to leave for an institution that can offer them a superior experience," says Jane.
But preparing ahead will hopefully mean you make the right choice for you in the first place. Ask questions, look at all the options and you'll avoid that sinking feeling. Oh, and turn the toaster setting down. Just in case.