Do I want to pay those tuition fees? Do I want to graduate with loads of debt? There aren’t enough jobs for graduates anyway? What kind of job will a degree get me?
Ouch! There’s been a lot of bad press around about the cost and the benefit of going to uni just lately. The Government are torn between providing a Higher Education system that gives us an international competitive advantage and being able to fund it adequately whilst not being accused of removing opportunity for bright but economically disadvantaged people.
OK, let’s get real. Deciding whether to go to uni or not shouldn’t just be about it leading to a particular job. Many graduates will tell you that they learned a lot more than what was offered on their actual degree course. There are lots of degree courses that are vocationally linked and offer job opportunities to move into directly. There are many that are considered more academic or have less obvious direct links to a career. There are lots of useful and interesting conversations about this in The Student Room, if you haven’t already registered so that you can take part in online conversations with The Student Room online community check it out now – it’s free and well worth doing.
However, if you’ve decided that you want to go to university when you’ve completed your ‘A’ Levels, here is our selection of the most useful resources to help you make the best choice. Given the cost of fees (both present and future) and the cost of living, you’ll want to make sure that you choose the right course at the very best uni you can get into, in a location where you’ll enjoy living and studying.
Choosing your course and your uni: Where you study matters not only to your student experience but also to your future job prospects. Every university has its own history, character, traditions and ways of doing things.
There are six categories of university
|Ancient universities||The seven universities founded between the 12th and 16th centuries: Oxford, Cambridge, St Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen,Edinburgh, Dublin.|
|The University of London, University of Wales, Lampeter and Durham University||The University of London includes Birkbeck, UCL, King’s, Royal Holloway, Goldsmiths, Queen Mary, SOAS and Goldsmiths. Imperial College is now independent.|
|Red Brick Universities||The six large civic universities chartered at the turn of the 20th century before WW1: Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, Bristol, Manchester.|
|Plate Glass universities||The universities chartered in the 1960’s (formerly described as the ‘new universities’) includes UEA, Essex, Kent, Lancaster, Sussex, Warwick and York.|
|The Open University||Britain’s ‘open to all’ distance learning university established in 1968.|
|New Universities||The post-1992 universities formed from polytechnics or colleges of higher education including Anglia Ruskin, Coventry, London South Bank, Huddersfield, Oxford Brookes, Lincoln, Plymouth.|
In addition, these universities belong to certain special interest groups such as The Russell Group (the top research intensive universities) and The University Alliance. Some universities are not members of any of these alliances. In terms of your future employment prospects, many top graduate employers concentrate their recruitment efforts in certain sectors such as The Russell Group – it pays to look at this carefully when you are choosing your course type and location.
There’s lots of useful information on UCAS about how to choose – Unistats , WhatUni?, The Complete University Guide and The Student Room are all worth checking out in terms of league tables and student reviews. You can’t do enough research really; take your time, talk to people you know that may have been to those unis already, make sure that you go to the Open Days and that way you won’t waste your UCAS choices. You may also want consider studying abroad – CollegeProwler (featured below) is a useful research and comparison tool for colleges in the USA.
Manage your application: We’ve included a useful free tracking sheet to download below to help you to keep tabs on all the info you need to make, track your decisions and the progress of your application. Once you have applied, you will be able to track the status of your application on UCAS too.
Apply on time: Remember that, if you want to apply for Oxbridge, their application deadline is much earlier than all the other unis – October rather than, in most cases, January.
Admissions tests: You may also be asked to sit additional tests such as UKCAT & BMAT if you want to study medicine and veterinary science and LNAT if you want to study Law. Admissions are getting tougher every year – a fistful of A* grades will not always guarantee your success.
Making your application stand out: Make sure that you get the help you need from your school to put together an impressive Personal Statement (watch the UCAS video on Youtube here)and remember to spare some time for extra-curricular activities such as sport, charity activities or a part-time/holiday job that shows that you’re more than just an exam machine.
Student loans and bursaries: Every University has a page about the bursaries on offer and eligibility rules on their website – be sure to read all the instructions carefully as they can be quite confusing. UCAS details additional information on student loans and tuition fees as does The Student Room.