With different opinions about courses, varying university ranks and the massive amount of information to navigate, choosing universities may sound quite terrifying. Floating apprehensions may make the process feel overwhelming: what if you don't feel happy after you go to the place you choose; how do you even begin narrowing down your choices from the massive lists you come across?
Here are some things you may want to look into to get started!
What Do You Want to Study?
Which universities have the course you want to study? What optional and compulsory modules do they offer? How long is your degree? Do you have any specific niche that you want your course to teach? You could start brainstorming with such questions in your mind to find programs that align with your expectations; that have what it takes for you to enjoy studying at university.
Many universities have Taster courses for, as the name suggests, to have a taste of what it is like to study your course at that particular university.
It is understandable to be interested in different subject areas and want to explore them all. But in the case of UK admissions, do remember that all universities will be reading the same personal statement (which has to cater to your course). So, you may want to restrict yourself to related degrees.
Look at the Entrance Requirements!
While this might go without saying, you may still get swayed and forget to give enough thought to this: consider the requirements. Some universities and courses may need you to take additional exams or have certain language requirements. Do look into these on respective web pages.
Many often talk about classifying universities into safety, target & reach schools. If you are interested in taking such a path, you can read more about it here.
Do rankings matter?
Well, to put it simply, maybe.
Rankings generally consider a range of factors: academic and employer reputations, teaching standards, student to faculty ratios, research outputs and citations, student satisfaction rates, graduate employment rates, etc. So, while they reflect performance in these criteria, just because a university is ranked better does not mean it is right for you.
You may often find universities ranking high due to phenomenal performances in areas that don't matter to you as much. Or maybe, rankings do work out perfectly for you. Either way, spend time considering what you want from university, rather than letting lists be the sole determinant.
The logistical bits could come off as tedious. But getting into the university you want only to end up disappointed might not be the best idea. How convenient it is for you to get to university, especially if you are an international student? If you aren't living on campus, how far are your classes from where you are staying?
Also, look into the environment of your university's location. Do you prefer being in a thriving city with potentially better networking opportunities and more recreational facilities but higher expenses? Or do you want to be at a relatively peaceful campus in a small town?
Again, it falls back to the same key idea of weighing your preferences and working out what fits you.
Most universities have information about accommodation, food, libraries, student societies and the like on their websites and prospectus. You can also talk to current and former students if possible to get genuine feedback on student life.
Generally, information about accommodations needed for disabilities is mentioned too, but you can always convey specific questions to your university to ensure they have what you need.
Look into the costs and your source of funding before making your final decisions. Apart from the fee for the degree, most universities also mention estimated costs of living for you to get a clear picture of how much you will be spending. Check if you are eligible for scholarships or financial aid, and begin planning them simultaneously if they need separate applications.
For international students in the UK, it is incredibly rare to find substantial undergraduate scholarships. Though, do check out the Jardine scholarship and Cambridge International Trust for scholarships at Oxford and Cambridge respectively.
Open days allow you to visit universities and ask any questions you have. In addition to technical details, try getting an overall feel of the environment, and consider if you think you can be happy there. You can also look into virtual open days if you can't visit.
The information that one needs before feeling satisfied with a choice may vary for everyone. There is no linear way to make decisions, especially those that impact years of your life. But we hope this gives you some ground to at least start thinking of how to find the university that is right for you! :)