How to choose the right university for you

Student looking at laptop

There are well over 100 universities to choose from in the UK; here's how to whittle them down

You’ve decided you want to go to university – now you just have to pick which one.

Which sounds simple enough, for sure. But with so many universities vying for your attention, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

To help you decide, we've pulled together some quick tips, along with links to resources on The Student Room and our sister site The Uni Guide

You could also take inspiration from these stories of students who found their dream uni.

What course do you want to study?

Get started by having a think about the course you want to study at university.

And, if you're not yet sure about your course choice either, try popping over to our sister site The Uni Guide. It has an A-level explorer tool. You just enter your A-level subjects for some suggestions of relevant university courses. 

Once you've found some courses, you can dig deeper into The Uni Guide to check through its course guides. You can get a overview of the courses available, with stats on things such as career prospects and teaching hours. And you can then explore detailed information about each course at each university.

Armed with those stats, you'll be able to start picking out the courses that will suit you best.

Whereabouts do you want to be?

Hopefully your longlist is already starting to feel a bit more like a shortlist. But it may not be quite short enough to create a final five for your application. 

One quick way to strike a line through several 'maybes' is to think about location.

If you've got a university on your doorstep, you might want to stay local – especially if it could help with saving on accommodation costs.

On the flipside, you might be looking for a complete change of scene. In which case, getting as far away as possible could be high up your list of priorities.

Whatever your priorities, the areas outside your preferred zone can be quickly struck off the list.

And if you’re not sure where in the UK you’d like to live, The Uni Guide has a quiz to help you choose a university city. And this article on choosing between a campus and a city university could also help you weigh up the pros and cons of different areas.

books in library

Research your shortlist in more detail

Following those first couple of steps, your list should already be looking a bit shorter. Now it's time to dig into the details of those remaining universities, to work out which are a good fit for you.

As well as looking at university websites and prospectuses, head back over to The Uni Guide's university directory for information on courses, fees and accommodation. You can order prospectuses and book onto open days there as well.

You might find it helpful to create a table that includes the things that matter most to you about a university. You can tick things off as you go and use this to rank your shortlist. 

Lots of people use league tables to help them choose, but it's wise to take care with these. League tables can give you valuable insight into a university’s strengths and weaknesses, but they’re not the be-all and end-all. This article on The Uni Guide has more information to help you choose the right university.

Use The Student Room forums

Get an unbiased feel for each university by visiting its forum and checking out what current students are saying, or asking a question if there’s anything in particular you’re dying to know.

We also have a forum for more general questions about applying to university.

friends walking through university canteen

Get along to open days if you can

One of the best ways to feel sure about your application is by going along to an open day. This helps so much, because you can see exactly what the university is like and get a true sense of whether you can see yourself studying there.

Going along in person is always best - but if you really can't make it then universities also run virtual open days. 

Make sure you're well prepared with The Uni Guide's handy tips on making the most of an open day.

Settle on five unis that give you options

If you've gone through each of the steps above, you should now be feeling pretty confident about your shortlist. Before you hit send on the application, it's time to check back on entry requirements. 

Having a mix of requirements is good – some higher and some lower – so you can have some flexibility when it comes to choosing firm and insurance options.

You might try something like this:

  • One 'risky' choice (above your predicted grades)
  • Two or three choices at your predicted grades
  • One or two choices well below your predicted grades

And, with that, your uni application list is done. Good luck!

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