Choosing a university is likely to be the biggest decision you have had to make in your entire life, and certainly it is a task not to be taken lightly. Chances are you will find it very difficult to make your mind up and so this guide is here to make it a little bit easier to choose the right university for you.
You are unique
Everybody is different! Although this is commonly accepted it is important to remember this when you apply to university. Although a university may have been right for your parents, family or friends, you may still not like it. As chances are you will be spending 3 years or more studying and living at the university you should make sure that you feel it is right for you, regardless of what other people think.
Although league tables are useful in getting a rough feel for the strength of a university, it is important to remember their limitations. League tables use artificial figures such as student-staff ratios, but don't differentiate between whether there is a just-qualified professor teaching 10 students, or a nobel prize winner teacher 20 students, clearly the latter is preferable. However they also incorporate useful information like career prospects and facilities. Therefore just because a university is a few places higher in a league table does not make it necessarily better. Also, rankings vary enormously by subject so be sure to look at individual subject rankings if you are going to use league tables as a guides. But be wary, as the counter argument to this is that employers will focus on the overall league table so this is what matters most...
This is a big issue for some students, they are worried that if they go to a smaller university they will miss out on student social-life, this is clearly not true! Obviously if you go to one of the 3 universities in Manchester then you will be one of 75,000 students, and can expect a very lively social life. Other universities such as Nottingham, Leeds, Bristol and London universities all have reputations for excellent city nightlife. However, even at smaller universities like Warwick and Huddersfield there will still be plenty of nightlife to keep you entertained. After all, there will be plenty of other students just like you wanting the same drinking, dancing and general late-night fun!
Decide your priorities
There are two good ways to decide on a university, each has their merits and drawbacks. The first is to choose a university you like and then find a course which you will enjoy there, this is what a lot of oxbridge (Oxford and Cambridge) applicants do, as they are drawn by the reputations and opportunity to social network. The problem with this method is that you may not get as enjoyable course as you would like. The other good way to choose your university, and probably the more popular method, is to find a course which really interests you, and then to find the universities which offer it. I recommend UCAS Course Search for finding universities offering your course.
Finally, just remember that although university is an important stage of your life, and will help shape your future, there will be many universities which are right for you. Which one you go to is unlikely to make as much of a difference to your life as you think now.
Added: 10th October 2007
Last Updated: 8th November 2007