Applicants to UK universities can submit up to 5 universities on their UCAS form.
So what should candidates be thinking about when they come to finalise their shortlist? What things should candidates bear in mind? Below are some broad guidelines:
Study the entry requirements
Entry requirements give candidates a guideline of the academic rigour of the course and the academic ability the admissions tutors expect you to have. It is wise not to choose 5 universities with high entry requirements; much better to select at least one university with lower guidelines as your “fall back position” in case you are unsuccessful with the more academic institutions. Remember, meeting the entry requirements does not mean you’ll be guaranteed a place.
Compare the content of the course
Check to see how the courses are assessed (exams vs coursework vs presentations). As a student, which sort of assessment do you prefer?
Check to see what specific modules are actually available at the university and how these fit in with your career interests.
Research the teaching staff. Who are they? Are they leaders in their field? Are they practicing academics or is some of the teaching done by post-graduates? Does the teaching staff publish research in their discipline?
Speaking to current and former students, especially at open days, is a great way to learn about the course.
Compare course providers and location
What are the facilities like in the university? Pay particular attention to libraries, IT facilities and out of class study groups. Check to see what societies are on offer and whether there is a society for your areas of interest. Societies are a great way to meet other students outside of the lecture halls. Oxbridge and London universities tend to have a very strong ecosystem of societies.
Think about the Careers Support centre at the university. Are they well-staffed? Are they open during the holidays? Do they have an active website with regular work placements (both in the UK and abroad)?
Think about university location, quality of transport links and proximity to London. Recruitment open days for final year students tend to be superior in London universities and Oxbridge compared to other campuses across the country.
Finally there is no substitute for going to the university campus, feeling the atmosphere, and speaking to students and teaching staff. Go to as many open days as you can and you will soon start to get a sense of what is the right fit for you. Look out for course specific open days as well as university wide open days.
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