Finding the one: how I picked the right uni

happy students

Find out how these students decided on their dream uni

Maybe your eyes will meet over a tree-lined campus… or maybe you’ll spend three months trawling through league tables, websites and UCAS course listings before you find the one. Either way, picking a uni is an important decision that every student needs to go through, and it’s worth doing your research ahead of time to save yourself from heartbreak further down the line.

So how did other students find a uni that made their heart flutter? We asked TSR members and University of East Anglia students, Amy Ray and Matilde Ferrari, how they decided on the uni for them.

Are open days worth it?

It’s easy to bang five random unis on your UCAS form without visiting a single one, but attending an open day gives you a much better idea of what you can expect. Whether it’s the campus, the location of the uni, the city or the accommodation, this is a golden opportunity to explore your potential unis and ask any questions. It also really lets you get a feel for the campus and - if you have time - the surrounding town or city as well. This is something that can't really be replicated online, no many how many virtual open days you explore.

If you want a more in-depth look at your shortlist, you could find out if your unis offer applicant days for a more focused visit. These are generally something you'll get invited to after you apply to help narrow down your five choices and make up your mind once and for all. This is the number one reason most TSR students give for deciding on their uni, so make sure you take the time to visit the unis at the top of your list to help you make the right choice.

“Open days are definitely worth it! I was set on going to a certain university until I went there for an open day and found out it really wasn't for me, but when I went to one I wasn't really considering, I ended up loving it and now I'm in my third year! I would recommend going to as many as you can.” - Punk_Rock_Socks

“I chose my firm because it was the only uni I could imagine living at for four years and I just totally fell in love with it on the open day.” - Sooz

Students chilling at open day

How much do league tables matter?

Some people worry that a low placement on the league tables means a uni is rubbish, but that’s not necessarily true.

Often, certain departments can be outstanding, even at unis outside the top of the league tables, and many TSR students also check out the student satisfaction rankings to see what real students think. While the league tables are worth a glance, you really shouldn't place too much emphasis on them, especially over other parts of your decision-making process.

What matters more is that you’re going to be happy at the uni you choose so you’re not desperate to drop out within the first few weeks.

“It doesn't really bother me that my uni isn't regarded as 'respected' because I'm really enjoying the course and I think that's more important.” - ~*Sweetness*~

“Prestige helps, but as it's largely a result of the course itself it's not a huge thing on its own.” - Beelzebub

Campus university

Feeling at home

Before you make your firm uni choice, you need to think about accommodation. Do you want to be in uni halls, private halls, student housing or private housing? Do you want catered or self-catered halls? How about things like proximity to nightlife, lectures and transport links? Is an en-suite a necessity, or can you survive with a shared bathroom? You’ll be spending a fair bit of time in your accommodation, so choose a uni with accommodation that will best suit you, your budget and your lifestyle.

“Remember the beauty of being at uni, and especially in halls, is that if you don't get on with your flatmates, you’re surrounded by other students in other flats, on your course and in societies who you could go out with instead.” - jelly1000

Students looking at results league tables

Is the location right for you?

Many people struggle to choose between a campus and city uni, as both have their benefits and drawbacks. You’ll also want to think about how far you want to be from home, whether you want to be near the coast or inland and whether surrounding transport links will allow you to visit friends and family to make sure you choose a uni you’ll love.

“Campus unis can be great if you want to make friends who are living in the student accommodation village with you and want to take part in all the social events that happen, but if you're not keen on that, it can feel a bit samey and isolating.” - PhoenixFortune

“I chose my uni because it was a campus uni, but with Brighton on one side and countryside on the other, it wasn't too far from home and it had a modern and interdisciplinary ethos.” - Wise One

Students in accommodation student halls

What about the student union?

Student unions aren’t just places you go for cheap drinks on a Monday night - they’re also the hub of a uni’s societies and student representative body. TSR students find that societies are a great way to make friends, explore new interests and add skills to your CV, and remember that an active student union can have a huge impact on the day-to-day running of uni life, so find out more about your uni’s student union before you make your firm choice.

“I definitely recommend joining one or two societies; they're a great way of meeting new people outside of our course and university halls and you already have a shared interest which you can talk about!” - Deyesy

Student union societies sports team

Are the facilities up to scratch?

If there’s something that especially matters to you, like mental health services, sports facilities, LGBT+ support or creative studios, check if your uni provides them and if so, what they’re like.

Even if you’re not sure if uni is for you, having the right facilities in place can spell the difference between a happy relationship with your uni and struggling through your three years. UEA student Amy explains why a sports centre and top-notch career service was important to her.

“Facilities are important; 24hr libraries can be really handy.” - claireestelle

“My department has some great modern facilities, yet it’s also got the feel of being an old established university.” - Arminius

So if you’re hoping to fall head over heels for your uni, make sure you do your research now - the more you know, the more likely you are to live happily ever after with your university.

Watch more videos about student life

Our vloggers are sharing their experiences of student life direct from the campus. In this video playlist, we've collected their vlogs about first year accommodation, to help you get an idea of what it's like when you first start.

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