What to do if you can't decide which universities to put on your Ucas application

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Here’s how to make the most of the time you’ve got left before the deadline

Have you found ‘the one’? If you’re applying to uni right now, hopefully you have.

You’ve done your research, you’ve been to the open days, you’ve chatted to everyone on the TSR uni forums and now you know. You know the university you want to go to; the place where you want to spend three years of your life.

But what if you’re still not sure? What if your application is still one big question mark? What if you’re not thinking ‘I’ve found the one’ but instead thinking ‘I’m not sure this one’s really right for me.’?

There’s still time

At this stage, if you've not yet hit ‘send’ on your application to uni, it’s easy to get jittery. The main Ucas deadline is looming. School teachers and college tutors are on your case and it feels like everyone you know has already sent in their application.

Take a breath. You’ve got plenty of company; around half of the pre-deadline applications are typically made in the final four weeks before 29 January. That’s hundreds of thousands of people, all at the same stage as you.

So, first order of business: don't stress. If you’re not yet sure about the uni that’s right for you, that’s fine. You don’t need to rush it. Every application received by universities by 29 January is considered equally - so there's nothing to gain by getting yours in a couple of days earlier.

The most pressing deadline right now is your teacher reference. Make sure you know the process at your school or college and when the deadline is. So long as your reference is underway, the rest is up to you.


Get to know your unis

You've probably done plenty of uni research around the key topics of academia and employability. Essentially, how good is this uni at this particular course and how good will it be at helping me get a job? That research is obviously crucial and there are many places – including our sister site The Uni Guide – where you can get the detail you need.

But it's easy to lose sight of the fact that university life isn't just made up of assessments and statistics. Real life happens there too. And if you're going to do as well as you can, in your personal life as well as your academic life, then you need to be comfortable at the uni you've chosen.

So take the time to find universities that are a good match for you as a person - not just as a student. Here are some questions to get you started.

Where will you live?

Yes, this matters. For a start, think about where your uni is in the world. Some universities are slap bang in the middle of a buzzing city. Some are based within sprawling out-of-town campuses. Others are quite literally in the middle of nowhere. What’s your style?

Think about what you want your day-to-day life to look like. Do you want a five-minute walk to everything a metropolis offers, or do you want green space and fresh air? Do you want to live close to home so you can commute, or are you focused on living a long way away? Look at the unis on your shortlist and see how many of them tick the right boxes for you.

What's the union like?

A strong student union can have a huge impact on day-to-day life around a university. Active student unions tend to campaign for what the uni’s student body thinks is important, so at some unis you might feel a strong focus on sport, at others a focus on politics and so on.

Take a look at the websites for the various unis' student unions to get a feel for what they're like. Remember, an active union will have lots of busy societies and sports clubs.


What can you expect from the course?

Different unis deliver their courses in different ways. Find as much information as you can on how your course will be delivered and how it will be assessed. Are there lots of lectures and seminars, or is contact time minimal? Which do you think you’ll prefer?

Look ahead at how the course includes additional elements, such as work placements and internships. All of these things will make a big difference to your student life – a far bigger difference than a place or two in a uni league table.

What do other students think of it?

Look at the National Student Survey. Look at The Uni Guide. Go onto the TSR forums. All will give you an idea of what life is like at that uni for other students. If people rave about things that interest you, you can feel confident you’re going to fit right in. If lots of people are grumbling about something that’s really important to you, perhaps you need to have a rethink.

Have you visited?

You won't know if a uni is right for you until you spend some time there, but many students still apply to universities without ever visiting them. It's always important to go to an open day before applying - but if you've left it too late for that, then you should still be able to get on a campus tour. Also, if you receive an offer of a place from your chosen universities following your application, you can visit on an applicant day, before you make any decisions on which offer to make your firm.

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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